Sights and Sounds: The 2018 PyeongChang Opening Ceremony

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Let the games begin! The Opening Ceremony for the 23rd Winter Olympic Games — titled “Peace in Motion” — went down early Friday morning on the other side of the world in PyeongChang, South Korea.

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And it went off without a hitch. Don’t miss the Opening Ceremony’s primetime airing tonight at 8pm ET on NBC and streaming live on NBCOlympics.com.

WATCH: Top moments from 2018 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony

PEACE IN MOTION

The gallantry leading up to the Parade of Nations followed the whimsical time-traveling adventure of five children surrounded by hundreds of performers and cultural iconography.

“The opening ceremony will weave together the narratives of five lovable protagonists from Gangwon province through cultural performances,” executive producer of the Opening Ceremony Yang Jung-woong said in January. “The stage will unfold like a winter fairytale depicting the children’s adventure.”

UNITY

As hosts, South Korea’s athletes entered the PyeongChang Olympic Stadium last. They were joined by representatives from North Korea as all compatriots punctuated the Parade of Nations by entering together under the Unification Flag, which was carried by an athlete from each country.

A moment was captured in which South Korean President Moon Jae-in shook hands with Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Kim Yo-jong was later granted the honor of officially announcing the start of the 2018 Olympic Games.

USA GARB

Athletes from the United States marched in the Parade of Nations with a red, white and blue fit by Ralph Lauren sporting classic sweaters and large parkas to go along with tassled nubuck gloves.

TA’OVALA-ING TAUFATOFUA

For the second Olympic Opening Ceremony in a row, Tonga’s Pita Taufatofua stole the show.

Tonga’s lone representative created quite a stir at the 2016 Rio Games when he carried the Tongan flag bare-chested and glistening in his traditional ta’ovala.

“I want to still be alive for my race. It’s going to be freezing, so I will be keeping nice and warm,” he said prior to the games.

WATCH: The Shirtless Tongan is back!

But Taufatofua couldn’t resist, entering the arena — again bare-chested and glistening in his traditional ta’ovala — to wild cheers.

Taufatofua remarkably qualified for the Olympics as a cross country skier when he picked up the sport after returning from Rio determined to become Tonga’s first athlete to compete in both the summer and winter Olympics.

THE ARENA

The 35,000-seat PyeongChang Olympic Stadium, which cost upwards of $75 million to construct, was finished late in 2017 and will be used for just four events. The plan is to remove the temporary installation and keep the surrounding facilities as an homage to the 2018 Games.

The arena will host the Closing Ceremony on Feb. 25 and the Opening and Closing Ceremonies for the Paralympics soon after.

THE RINGS

The lighting of the Olympic rings was an impressive show. Glowing snowboarders charged down a darkened competition slope before forming into rings, only revealed as the camera shifted overhead. Simultaneously, new rings seemed to materialize and hover over the mountain for a stirring shot.

WATCH: Opening Ceremony: Drumline

LIGHTING THE CAULDRON

After its 1,254-mile journey across the country, carried by 7,500 runners to represent the 75 million people residing on the Korean peninsula, representatives from North and South Korea climbed a daunting set of lit-up stairs deliver the Olympic flame to its final destination.

As many guessed, it was Korean figure skating gold medalist and superstar Kim Yu-na who received the honor of lighting the cauldron — doing so in skates, no less. Once she lit the base of the cauldron, a ladder of fire periscoped upward to reach the top of a massive white tower visible atop one of the corners of the pentagonal stadium.

WATCH: Opening Ceremony: Auraji Raft

GRAND FINALE

Over 20,000 fireworks were set off during the Opening Ceremony, which concluded with arresting visuals of lasers and fire.

WATCH: Opening Ceremony: Dancers

Alpine skiing to test new format for combined race

Alpine Skiing Combined
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Alpine skiing officials will test a new format for the combined event, a race that is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

French newspaper L’Equipe reported that the International Ski Federation (FIS) will test a new team format for the combined, which has been an individual event on the Olympic program since 1988. L’Equipe reported that a nation can use a different skier for the downhill and slalom in the new setup, quoting FIS secretary general Michel Vion.

For example, the U.S. could use Breezy Johnson in the downhill run and sub her out for Mikaela Shiffrin in the slalom run, should the format be adopted into senior competition.

The format will be tested at the world junior championships in January in St. Anton, Austria, according to the report.

In response to the report, a FIS spokesperson said, “Regarding the new format of the combined is correct, and our directors are working on the rules so for the moment the only thing we can confirm is that there will be this new format for the Alpine combined that has been proposed by the athletes’ commission.”

Some version of the combined event has been provisionally included on the 2026 Olympic program, with a final IOC decision on its place coming by April.

This will be the third consecutive World Cup season with no combined events. Instead, FIS has included more parallel races in recent years. The individual combined remains on the biennial world championships program.

L’Equipe also reported that the mixed team parallel event, which is being dropped from the Olympics, will also be dropped from the biennial world championships after this season.

“There is nothing definitive about that yet, but it is a project in the making,” a FIS spokesperson said in commenting on the report.

Vion said the mixed team event, which debuted at the Olympics in 2018, was not a hit at the Beijing Games and did not draw a strong audience, according to L’Equipe.

The World Cup season starts in two weeks with the traditional opening giant slaloms in Soelden, Austria.

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Ironman Kona World Championships return, live on Peacock

Ironman Kona World Championship
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The Ironman Kona World Championships return after a three-year hiatus with a new format, live on Peacock on Thursday and Saturday at 12 p.m. ET.

The Ironman, held annually in Hawaii since 1978, and in Kailua-Kona since 1981, was not held in 2020 or 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The world championships made a one-time-only stop in St. George, Utah, on May 7 to make up for the 2021 cancellation. The winners were Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt, the Tokyo Olympic triathlon champion, and Swiss Daniela Ryf, who bagged her fifth Ironman world title.

WATCH LIVE: Ironman Kona men’s pro race, Saturday, 12 p.m. ET — STREAM LINK

Both entered Kailua-Kona, where the races were now split between two days — Thursday for the women and Saturday for the men. Chelsea Sodaro won the women’s race, ending a 20-year American victory drought.

An Ironman includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a marathon — totaling 140.6 miles of racing. It takes top triathletes eight hours to complete. Very arguably, it crowns the world’s fittest man and woman.

Blummenfelt, 28 and in his Kona debut, will try to become the youngest male champion in Kona since German Normann Stadler in 2005. His top challengers include countryman Gustav Iden, the two-time reigning Half Ironman world champion, and German Patrick Lange, the 2017 and 2018 Ironman Kona winner.

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