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The Latest: S. Korea president opens Pyeongchang Olympics

February 9, 2018
Associated Press

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — The Latest on the Pyeongchang Olympics (all times local):

9:45 p.m.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has declared the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics open during a ceremony that featured the rival Koreas joining hands and marching together in the small ski resort town in eastern South Korea.

The games beginning Friday are taking place amid an international standoff over North Korea's nuclear weapons. But Pyongyang's decision to send a high-level delegation including leader Kim Jong Un's sister to the Olympics has raised hopes in the South for rapprochement.

The North has sent nearly 500 people to the Pyeongchang Games, including officials, athletes, artists and cheerleaders, after the Koreas agreed to a series of conciliatory gestures to mark the games.

More than 2,900 athletes from 92 countries will compete in the Pyeongchang Games, making it the biggest Winter Olympics to date.

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9:20 p.m.

In an extraordinary moment that could hardly be fathomed one month ago, North and South Korea have entered the Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium together.

The countries are cooperating for a series of conciliatory measures, including having their athletes parade together for the first time in 11 years at the opening ceremony. The joyous group flew their flag, which was white with the blue Korean peninsula in the middle.

During the 2000s, the two countries' athletes marched together at the opening and closing ceremonies of several international sporting events, including the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The last time before Friday was at the Asian Winter Games in China in 2007.

The two countries have also formed a joint women's hockey team, which consists of 23 South Koreans and 12 North Koreans.

North Korea has sent hundreds of people to Pyeongchang, including officials, athletes, artists, journalists and a 230-member cheering group. The games are also being attended by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's sister and other senior officials.

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9:10 p.m.

Tonga's Pita Taufatofua doesn't need a shirt for these Winter Olympics, even in frigid conditions at Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium.

Taufatofua turned heads at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio with his shirtless, oiled-up look as the flag bearer for his country. He's back again and this time it was even more impressive as he waved the flag and didn't seem fazed by temperatures that had fallen into the 20s.

Taufatofua will be competing in these Olympics as a cross-country skier, despite living in a tropical nation that has no snow. He competed in taekwondo in Rio.

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9 p.m.

The Russian Olympic team, known during the Pyeongchang games as the "Olympic Athletes from Russia," has entered the opening ceremonies under a significant cloud related to past doping concerns.

There are 168 Russians who are being forced to compete in neutral uniforms under the Olympic flag as punishment for Russian doping in Sochi in 2014. Other athletes haven't been invited to compete at all. Appeals by 45 of them were rejected Friday.

The Russians wore grey jackets with white scarves on Friday night and were carrying the Olympic flag. Response from the crowd was fairly muted, though some cheering could be heard.

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8:45 p.m.

Luge veteran Erin Hamlin has entered her last Olympics carrying the U.S. flag, which started as a feel-good story but quickly turned controversial.

The large U.S. contingent is one of the more enthusiastic groups, and Hamlin smiled broadly as she waved the flag.

Hamlin and speedskater Shani Davis were among several candidates for the flagbearer role and athletes from each of the eight winter sports federations voted in the process, which eventually deadlocked at 4-4. Hamlin won a coin toss, which was the predetermined method of picking a winner should the vote end in a tie.

A tweet posted to Davis' Twitter account said the process by which Hamlin won the honor was executed "dishonorably."

On paper, Davis would seem the more worthy candidate. He's a five-time Olympian and has won two gold medals and two silver medals.

Hamlin is a four-time Olympian who won a bronze at the 2014 Sochi Games and is a two-time world champion. She is retiring after these Olympics.

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8:35 p.m.

The sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has shaken hands with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in a historic meeting during the opening ceremony of the Olympics.

After Moon and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach were introduced Friday, they shook hands with world leaders around their box.

In a historic moment for the Koreas, Moon spun and shook hands in public with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's younger sister, Kim Yo Jong.

Kim Yo Jong is the first member of her family to visit South Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War. She's part of a high-level delegation attending the opening ceremony.

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8:25 p.m.

As is Olympic tradition, Greece is beginning the parade of athletes into Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium.

Greece — which hosted the first modern Olympic games in 1896 — is being followed by the other countries in alphabetical order according to the Korean alphabet.

The teams are led by a placard bearer dressed in snowflake decorations. The music is various Korean pop songs that range from the 1950s to present day hits. There will be 13 songs played while the athletes march into the stadium.

South Korean athletes who have represented the country in different sports carried the flag around the stadium and then the traditional guard of honor raised the flag. The Rainbow Choir, which consists of 40 children, sang the national anthem

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8:10 p.m

The Winter Games opening ceremony has started. The program is broken down into 14 different sections, including the parade of athletes and the lighting of the Olympic flame.

As the ceremony started, the lights dimmed and the crowd cheered as fireworks exploded overhead.

The ceremony's program follows the journey of five children as they travel through time from the past to the future as "they discover peace envisioned by Koreans."

Part of the ceremony pays tribute to the South Korean flag, which is known as Taegeukgi, and is an illustration of balance and law in the universe. The interlocking semi-circles represent yin (blue) and yang (red).

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8 p.m.

The opening ceremonies for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang have begun with a round of sparkling fireworks exploding just above a seemingly delighted North Korean cheering delegation.

With taekwondo demonstrations from both Koreas, South Korea is putting on a frigid show for the world that's meant to display a newfound desire to cooperate with the North along with Seoul's stunning rise from poverty and war to Asian powerhouse.

A huge crowd gathered in the freezing Olympics Stadium in this isolated, mountainous corner of South Korea.

There will be plenty of sporting drama for both die-hard snow and ice junkies and the once-every-four-years enthusiast.

But the athletic aspect of these games has been overshadowed by the stunning cooperation of the rival Korea, who were flirting with war just weeks ago.

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7:45 p.m.

As expected, it will be very cold and breezy for the opening ceremonies at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

Pyeongchang is situated in the mountains in the northeastern part of South Korea, about 50 miles from the border with North Korea.

It's known for brutal cold and harsh winds during the winter. Fans and athletes will be left largely exposed to the elements, though organizers are giving the 35,000 fans heated seat cushions, hand warmers and other gear to help ease the chilly conditions.

The good news is that the weather could have been worse.

It was about 32 degrees (0 Celsius) in Pyeongchang on Friday night, which is tolerable compared to temperatures that have dropped to near zero (-18 Celsius) in recent days.

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7:30 p.m.

Fans are beginning to file into frigid Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremony on Friday night.

It's one of the first — and last — times the stadium will be used.

The five-sided 35,000-seat stadium cost about $100 million to build, but its primary use is for only four events: The opening and closing ceremonies for both the Olympics and Paralympics. Then it will be torn down and the site will be rebuilt with a museum and leisure facilities.

Members of the North Korean delegation are sitting in seats in the upper deck, cheering for the North Korean taekwondo team performing in the center of the stadium.

The entire Pyeongchang Olympics could cost South Korea up to 14 trillion won ($12.9 billion). South Korea is hosting the games for the first time since 1988, when Seoul was the home of the summer games.

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7:25 p.m.

Erin Hamlin is ready to lead Team USA into the opening ceremony.

Hamlin, a luger, is the U.S. flagbearer for Friday's formal beginning of the Pyeongchang Olympics. Her selection was followed by some controversy, when a tweet posted to speedskater Shani Davis' account said the process used to pick Hamlin wasn't fair.

Hamlin and Davis were the two finalists and received a tie number of votes. A coin toss was the tiebreaker. Hamlin won.

In a tweet, Hamlin wrote that she's "beyond grateful to be a part of this team and incredibly proud to have the privilege of leading every amazing TeamUSA athlete into that stadium tonight."

Davis is not expected to participate in Friday's opening ceremony.

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6:45 p.m.

Olympic halfpipe champion Iouri Podladtchikov won't defend his title because of injuries he suffered last month at the Winter X Games.

The 2014 gold medalist, known as the I-Pod, practiced on the Olympic halfpipe Friday but afterward said it would be "totally unreasonable" for him to compete.

The Russia native who competes for Switzerland took a nasty fall on his final jump at the X Games on Jan. 28, banging his face against the bottom of the pipe. He lay motionless for more than 10 minutes while medics stabilized his neck and strapped him to a stretcher.

He was diagnosed with a broken nose and released from the hospital the next day. He traveled to South Korea with the hopes of competing next Tuesday, but realized quickly it wouldn't be possible.

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6:35 p.m.

The law firm representing 45 Russian athletes excluded from the Pyeongchang Games says their Olympic dreams have been shattered.

Swiss firm Schellenberg Wittmer says, "Our clients consider — rightly so — that the decisions are unfair and harmful."

The law firm says the Russian athletes were not told why they haven't been invited by the International Olympic Committee. It adds they "are currently analyzing the reasoned decisions and examining the different legal options at their disposal."

Last week, the firm helped reverse the disqualification of 28 Russians from the Sochi Olympics, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled Friday the IOC had the right to choose which Russians to invite to its games.

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6:20 p.m.

Canadian figure skater Meagan Duhamel already has one life-changing souvenir from South Korea, and it's not a medal.

The Olympic pairs skater rescued a puppy from the Korean dog meat trade while competing in Pyeongchang last year and she's helping organize more adoptions while skating there at this year's games.

Duhamel and her husband brought home Moo-tae last February. His big ears and affable personality have made him a favorite at the local dog park.

Buddhists in the southern part of the country helped rescue Moo-tae from a farm as a puppy, and Park found him living on a monastery.

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5:55 p.m.

High winds in the weather forecast could move the marquee men's downhill from its scheduled Sunday slot.

Race director Markus Waldner says a Monday lunchtime start is the favored backup plan.

Strong wind gusts forced a shortened practice run Friday to begin 564 feet (175 meters) lower down the Jeongseon race hill. The downhill start is at 4,495 feet (1,370 meters) altitude.

Racers risk being blown off a safe line in strong winds, which can shut down the only gondola carrying teams and officials up the mountain.

On Monday, the women's giant slalom is scheduled at nearby Yongpyong with runs starting at 10:15 a.m. and 1:45 p.m.

Waldner says the men's downhill could start between those times.

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5:30 p.m.

Lindsey Vonn will enter three races at what she says will be her final Olympics.

The U.S. skiing star, who missed the 2014 Sochi Games after surgery on her right knee, says she will compete in the downhill, the super-G and the combined. But she decided to sit out the giant slalom, saying that her knee "is just not really in a place to do that."

The 33-year-old American said she wouldn't be able to contend for a medal in the GS, "so there's really no point."

This is Vonn's fourth Olympics. She won a gold in the downhill and a bronze in the super-G at Vancouver in 2010.

Her first race in South Korea is the super-G, scheduled for Feb. 17.

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5:25 p.m.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says he hopes the Olympic Games can give a small boost to relations between North and South Korea.

Guterres met Friday in Pyeongchang with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach. Guterres says "obviously in the present context there is a lot of attention to the message of peace in relation to the Korean Peninsula."

He says he wants to make clear that "the Olympic message of peace is not local. It's universal."

He says, "It is valid everywhere where we struggle to try to address the very many conflicts we are facing."

Bach lauded Guterres' presence at the games. He says, "We are enjoying an excellent cooperation together in many areas."

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5:05 p.m.

A Russian member of the International Olympic Committee concedes the Court of Arbitration for Sport was legally correct in excluding 45 Russian athletes, but he disagrees with the spirit of the ruling.

Shamil Tarpishchev says that since the Russian team was formally banned, the court was correct that the IOC had the right to choose which Russians to invite to the games.

He says the IOC could have simply not invited anyone at all.

Tarpishchev was the tennis coach of Russian President Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s. He sees Russian athletes as unjustly targeted over doping cases and says, "We are fighting for the truth."

He declined to comment when asked if Russia planned to take the cases to civil courts.

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3:55 p.m.

Team USA says 19-year-old American ski jumper Casey Larson has become the 100,000th man to compete at the Olympics.

Historian Bill Mallon calculated that Larson reached the milestone by being the 16th starter in Thursday's qualifying at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

Larson called the milestone "pretty cool." He says he can add it to his Olympic checklist.

Larson was one of four athletes from the United States to qualify for Saturday's normal hill final. Kevin Bickner, Michael Glasder and Will Rhoads also qualified.

Mallon conducted extensive research into who would become the 100,000th male athlete to compete since the modern games began in Athens in 1896.

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3 p.m.

The sister of the North Korean leader has arrived in South Korea for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

Kim Yo Jong is the first member of her family to visit South Korea since the 1950-53 Korean War. She's part of a high-level delegation attending the opening ceremony.

She smiled brightly as she was greeted by South Korean officials led by Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon at a meeting room at Incheon International Airport.

She was joined by other members of North Korea's delegation, including Kim Yong Nam, the country's 90-year-old nominal head of state; Choe Hwi, chairman of the country's National Sports Guidance Committee; and Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the North's agency that deals with inter-Korean affairs.

Analysts say the North's decision to send Kim Yo Jong to the Olympics shows an ambition to break out from diplomatic isolation and pressure by improving relations with the South, which it could use as a bridge for approaching the United States.

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2:05 p.m.

Despite holding a lead heading into the final round of curling's mixed doubles match, the U.S. lost to reigning world champion Switzerland after the Swiss managed something exceedingly unusual: a perfect score known as a six-ender.

How rare is a six-ender?

Think of it as a perfect game in baseball.

Although Switzerland was behind by one point entering the final round, Jenny Perret and Martin Rios had an advantage: the right to throw the final stone of the game. They managed to get their first five stones into the house. They then promptly knocked the Americans' lone rock out of the house.

According to the World Curling Federation, no curling team has ever managed a perfect score at the Olympics.

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1:45 p.m.

Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford made up for teammate Patrick Chan's shaky short program to give Team Canada the lead after the opening day of figure skating's team competition.

The U.S. team was second, followed closely by Japan and the Olympic Athletes of Russia.

Duhamel and Radford scored 76.57 points in their program to finish behind Evgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, whose season-best 80.92 points dazzled a crowd full of Russian fans. But not even that big number could make up for teammate Mikhail Kolyada's poor short program.

Nathan Chen was wobbly for the Americans, but the pairs team of Alexa Scimeca Knierim and Chris Knierim bailed him out with a dazzling performance set to music from "Moulin Rouge!"

The team competition resumes Sunday with the ice dance and ladies short programs.

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1:40 p.m.

Russian athletes at the Pyeongchang Olympics must wear neutral uniforms and compete under the Olympic flag, but their fans are making no secret of what country they're from.

A large contingent is holding up signs saying "Russia In My Heart" in Russian during the figure skating team event. The same message is spelled out in their shirts in English.

Russian skater Mikhail Kolyada struggled in the men's team short program, falling twice on quad jumps as he finished eighth.

The International Olympic Committee invited 168 athletes to compete, but they're being called "Olympic Athletes from Russia." If they win events, the Olympic flag will fly and the Olympic anthem will be played.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that another 45 athletes and two coaches excluded over doping concerns can't compete.

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11:30 a.m.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport has ruled that 45 Russian athletes who were excluded from the Pyeongchang Olympics over doping concerns can't compete.

They and two coaches wanted the court to overturn the International Olympic Committee's decision not to invite them to the games, which open Friday.

The games will still include 168 Russians who have been invited as "Olympic Athletes from Russia," competing in neutral uniforms under the Olympic flag.

 
 
 

 

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