Every two years, the world is treated to the Olympic Games, and with each iteration comes an opportunity for host countries to artfully showcase their history and culture in the opening ceremony. Feb. 9’s show in PyeongChang combined unbelievable choreography and technology to deliver a memorable performance for all to enjoy. Silhouettes of the Olympic rings at the bottom of a ski slope, lights shooting up high into the sky, beautiful interplay between drummers and dancers, and a powerful image of yin and yang formed at centre stage drove home the ceremony’s theme of “Peace in Motion.”
But, no matter how excellent the performance portion of the ceremony is, the Parade of Nations is always one of the Olympics’ best moments. For viewers, watching the world’s athletes walk into the arena elicits a broad spectrum of emotions—joy and excitement because the Games are back, pride and awe for the athletes and the hard work that they’ve put in to get there, and the beauty of seeing the world come together.
On a much more superficial level, the Parade of Nations provides fans with great entertainment from trying to guess an athlete’s sport from just their face or physique, to searching up where in the world a country is. Above all, some stand-out outfits stole the show.
Pita Taufatofua, the Tongan taekwondoin who carried his country’s flag into the Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Summer Games, surely deserves a mention. He qualified for PyeongChang as a cross-country skier and recreated his look from Rio for this year’s ceremony: A traditional Tongan mat wrapped around his waist and nothing but oil on his chest.
Other flag bearers took the opportunity to flaunt a one-of-a-kind wardrobe for their country. Mexico’s 43 year-old cross-country skier, German Madrazo, came fitted in a Mariachi band uniform—sadly, with no instrument—and Niklas Edin of Sweden sported a shiny gold jacket as he led his country.
Neon green was a popular colour: Bulgaria, Slovenia, and Bolivia all featured it prominently in their outfits. Slovenia wore the brightest green, and Bolivia contrasted it with red pants, but Bulgaria put together the cleanest look.
Athletes from Jamaica, with its sixth appearance in the bobsleigh competition since a glorious debut in 1988 (see Cool Runnings), showed how happy they were to be there by dancing their way into the games in PyeongChang.
The arrival of the host country was, as it often is, the biggest moment of the ceremony, but this delegation was different than those of host countries from past years. North Korea and South Korea walked in together as one, under the Korean Unification flag. There were other displays of Korean unity throughout the ceremony, including a joint effort between female hockey players from North and South Korea to carry the torch up one of the longest flights of stairs in the world to the final torch bearer, Yuna Kim.
Ultimately, the opening ceremony was as magical as it is at every Olympic Games. That will always be true, regardless of what anyone wears or does. The message of peace echoed throughout the performance, from a cover of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” to a masterfully edited video of children travelling to a unified future world. Every effort was made to symbolize a unified Korea. PyeongChang’s opening ceremony gave the world a reason to believe that the politics dividing us all now can and will be changed, and the world will become a truly peaceful place. The excitement and the pride radiating from every athlete’s face served as a reminder of what the Olympics are all about: Bringing the world together, even if it’s just for two weeks.