PYEONGCHANG, South Korea -- The Olympic Villages, which will accommodate 2,900 athletes during the upcoming Winter Games, officially opened Thursday.
The athletes' living quarters for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics -- split between one Olympic Village in PyeongChang, 180 kilometers east of Seoul, and one in Gangneung, 230 kilometers east of the capital -- had their opening ceremonies, with hundreds of guests in attendance. The construction of the Villages was completed in December, but officials have been preparing other facilities since then.
PyeongChang 2018 organizing committee chief Lee Hee-beom, Korean Sport and Olympic Committee President Lee Kee-heung and Gangwon Governor Choi Moon-soon attended the opening ceremony for the PyeongChang Village. Gangneung Mayor Choi Myung-hee was among the guests at the opening ceremony for the Gangneung Village.
The national flags from countries participating in the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games are raised at the Gangneung Village in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, on Feb. 1. (Yonhap)
The national flags of the Olympic participating countries, including North Korea, were all raised at the Villages. The organizers had already hoisted all the flags except North Korea's on Wednesday. South Korea has a draconian national security law aimed at keeping anti-state and pro-communist acts at bay. Under the law, hoisting the North Korean flag is illegal here, but it is being allowed at the Olympic venues for official events approved by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
The PyeongChang Village, located in the PyeongChang mountain cluster, will mainly serve athletes in snow sports, while the Gangneung Village, sited on the coast, will be home to those taking part in ice events.
The PyeongChang Village has eight 15-story buildings, amounting to 600 units. Its Gangneung counterpart has nine 25-story buildings, or 922 units. The two villages can house nearly 7,000 residents, according to the organizers.
The PyeongChang Village will be used for both the Olympics and the Paralympics. The Gangneung residence will only be in use during the Winter Olympics.
Each village is divided into a residential area, an athletes' plaza and an operations area, and includes banks, post offices, convenience stores, laundries, florists, beauty salons, fitness centers and multi-faith centers with prayer rooms. The dining halls will be open 24 hours and will have 450 food choices on the menu, including Korean, Western and Asian cuisines, along with vegetarian food and meals for those with religious requirements.
Arriving delegations will have a welcoming ceremony at the plaza in their village. There is also a venue to stage various cultural events, including K-pop concerts.
The organizing committee said that on the opening day, nearly 500 athletes from 22 nations, including the United States, Japan and Canada, were scheduled to check in. South Korean athletes for snow events will also move into the PyeongChang residence on the same day, while their teammates in ice sports are scheduled to arrive in the Gangneung Village next week.
The first welcoming ceremony will take place at the PyeongChang Village for teams from Jamaica, Brazil, Romania and Belgium on Monday. Host South Korea will have its welcoming ceremony two days later.
North Korea, whose main delegation will arrive at Yangyang International Airport later Thursday, will use the Gangneung Village for its athletes.
The first Winter Olympics in South Korea will run from Feb. 9 to 25. (Yonhap)