POCOG

North Korea’s participation at February’s Winter Olympics will form an integral part of an opening ceremony that will highlight a key message of peace, Games organisers said on Tuesday.

The 2018 Winter Olympics is being held in the mountainous resort town of Pyeongchang, 80 km (49.71 miles) from the heavily-fortified inter-Korean border.

It kicks off with the opening ceremony on Feb. 9.

Song Seung-hwan, a Games official, said peace had been set as the main motif of the opening gala even before North Korea decided to join the Games.

“We have worked on all of our scenarios under the theme of peace,” Song, who is serving as the executive creative director for the Pyeongchang ceremonies, told a news conference in Pyeongchang.

“Although North Korea’s participation was decided belatedly, we think this will serve as a good opportunity for us to convey our message more clearly,” the renowned actor and producer added.

North Korea’s presence at the Games had been speculated over for months amid heightened tensions surrounding Pyongyang’s contentious nuclear and ballistic missile programme.

However, in a dramatic turn of events, the Koreas agreed to parade together at the opening ceremony and form a unified team to compete in women’s ice hockey.

Lee Hee-beom, president of the Pyeongchang Games Organising Committee, added that the ceremonies remained largely unchanged following the North’s decision to participate.

He said the only change was in the joint entrance of Korean athletes under a single flag.

The opening ceremony is expected to intertwine Korean history and tradition.

Meanwhile, the trio of Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere and Akuoma Omeoga, Africa’s first bobsled team to qualify for the Olympics.

The team will be flying Nigeria’s flag at the Games expected to end on Feb. 25.

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