The 2018 Winter Games kicked off on Friday in the alpine town of PyeongChang, with spectators at the opening ceremony fortifying themselves against the cold of the mountainous region with thick coats and blankets.
|Spectators await for the official opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, located 180 kilometers east of Seoul, on Feb. 9, 2018. (Yonhap)|
South Korea's state weather agency said temperatures reached minus 2.7 Celsius during the opening ceremony in PyeongChang, located 180 kilometers east of Seoul, which was on par or above what is normal for this time of year. Wind chill hit below minus 8.7 C.
Amid the higher-than-expected temperature, spectators started to fill in the stadium hours before the opening of the show, with the excitement for the country's first Winter Games overwhelming the chilly weather.
Organizers provided visitors with a package of six items to cope with the freezing weather: a rain coat, a small blanket, a winter cap, heating packs for hands and feet and a heating pad that visitors can sit on. They have also prepared 18 heat shelters and 40 large heaters.
"It is really cold outside here, but it is better than I thought," said Byeon Da-sol, a 19-year-old who visited the stadium. "I think athletes are going through more harsh weather conditions. I hope they do well in their competitions."
To some extent, organizers were also relieved about the weather being milder than expected.
Last week, when they hosted a rehearsal of the opening event, the weather reached a whopping minus 14 C, with wind chill falling to as low as minus 22 C. Organizers were worried that the open structure of the PyeongChang Olympic Stadium would make the venue too cold for visitors, making athletes reluctant to participate.
The agency attributed the better-than-expected temperature on Friday to "an advection of warm air" from the southwest.
But that does not mean that PyeongChang had a pleasant weather; it nevertheless brought back chilly weather to the international competition.
After the 1994 Winter Games, held in Lillehammer, Norway, considered one of the coldest competitions ever by dropping below minus 10 C, organizers for more recent competitions were concerned about the weather not being cold enough.
The 2010 Winter Games held in Vancouver, Canada, earned a nickname as the first Spring Games due to continuous rain and mild temperatures. The Sochi Winter Olympics, held four years later, was also recorded as one of warmest competitions, with temperatures even reaching 20 C during the day.
Seo Sang-yong, who came from Seoul with his daughter and her friend, said the opening event is worth visiting despite the cold, considering this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
"I already saw a figure skating competition, and also came to the opening show to have a special experience," Seo said. "I hope all athletes earn what they have been fighting for, regardless of the freezing weather here."
North Korean cheerleaders also joined the opening ceremony, shouting slogans to overcome the chilly wind.
The PyeongChang Winter Olympics will run through Feb. 25 under the slogan, "Passion. Connected." (Yonhap)