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2018 PyeongChang Opening and Closing Ceremony of the Olympic Winter Games

Kang Eun-koo reporter egkang@hankyung.com
The 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games, which will be held on February 9th next year, have been coming for a month. The footsteps of Song Seung-hwan, the chief director of the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, and the general director of the closing ceremony (60) have become more busy. Only 1300 actors mobilized at the opening ceremony. There are more than 3,000 volunteers (1,000 people) who cover hundreds of staff and a scene of the opening ceremony. Song is the director of a snowy field that commands large-scale personnel. The opening ceremony is important enough to influence the overall atmosphere of the Olympics.

His face, which he met in a cafe in Ilsan, Goyang, on the 29th, was different from the interview in February. The face of the white beard grew tired, but the eyes were strong when talking about the opening ceremony. Song said, "I have been running for two years and five months since being elected general director in July 2015," and added, "I will demonstrate the power of Korean culture that will impress the world with all my strength for the rest of the month."

Two hours boasting 'Korea' to the world

Song is committed to practicing with the actors who appear at the opening ceremonies. After 10 days from January 8 of next year, all the personnel will gather to rehearse. From January 15, we will go to the opening and closing ceremonies of PyeongChang, Gangwon Province and rehearse the scene until the opening day. "The opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games is an important condition to distinguish it from the opening ceremony of the existing Olympic Games," he said. "The opening and closing ceremonies have a pentagon shape, the stage is circular and the actors can get up and down on the lift. "He said. He added, "I am confident it will be a three-dimensional performance if we improve the perfection through a thorough rehearsal of the scene," he added. "It will be two hours to boast about how much progress Korea has made in 30 years since the 1988 Seoul Olympics."

The PyeongChang Winter Olympics has encountered many obstacles in and out of the meantime. At the end of last year, Choi Sun-sil's attempt to intervene in the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games project has caused the public opinion on the Olympics to cool down. Security concerns about North Korea's nuclear test and missile launches continued to pour in. Song said, "In this opening ceremony, we must convey the message of peace that shows the desire of the divided nation." "We will show the opening ceremony where the passion, harmony and fusion unique to Korea are combined here."

A real Korean thing that is different from China and Japan

After the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, the Tokyo Olympics will be held in Japan in 2020. Two years later, the Beijing Olympic Winter Games in Beijing will follow. Pyeongchang is the 'first batter' of the Asian Games for the third consecutive time. For this reason, it is necessary to show Korean differentiation from Tokyo and Beijing at the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. Song said, "I gathered diverse opinions from staff and outside experts and had a lot of meetings." One of the most important things to think about is to find the most Korean culture that is not Chinese, from costume to performance. did.

It was also necessary to reinterpret Korean things in a global sense. "The details of the composition can not be disclosed because it is confidential," he said. "For example, music will make it possible for Westerners to adopt Western folk music without difficulty."

Director Yang Jung-woong (representative of the extreme tourist), who directed the opening ceremony, made Shakespeare's original 'Dream of the Mid-Summer Night' in Korean material and performed for the first time in Korean theater history at Barbican Center in London. In 2012, he was invited to the British Shakespeare Festival and received worldwide attention. Song said, "It is an exciting opening ceremony thanks to the ability of Yang to excel our ability to tell our country to other countries," adding, "We changed the fairies that appeared in the original in the 'A Midsummer Night's Dreams' "He added.

Thoroughly meticulous

Song said the opening ceremony was a 'global broadcast show'. It is because hundreds of millions of viewers in the world watch TV opening ceremony. In 1965, he made his debut as a voice actor and has more than 50 years of experience in broadcasting. "Because the camera shoots right next to the actors, I have to pay more attention to the details," he said. If you do, I'll be there for the moment. " Song, the director, along with director Yang, directed the costumes of the actors and the materials, color, and sewing of the props. "I am worried that if a person who does not have a big event such as the Olympics takes on the role of the general manager, he or she cares about a small part and misses the big stem," he said. "The five production companies, including CJ Cheil, "I have been doing great things like this, so I have been doing well without any problems."

The three letters "Olympics"

The budget for the opening and closing ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics is about 60 billion won. Beijing Olympic Games 600 billion won, Vancouver Winter Olympic Games 171.5 billion won, London Olympic Games 183.9 billion won is much smaller than the existing Olympics. This includes all of the participants' meals and meals. Song said, "Budget constraints are the same as people and resources," he said. "It is hard to make a big impression with less money, but we are working on the idea that we should do it."

It was the unfounded rumors that made the Song general director more difficult than the limited conditions. He said, "I have not heard anything about rumors related to Choi Eun-taek and rumors about the Olympics. I thought that I should be the only one to be at first. "I was complaining. There were times when I wanted to give up all my unfair thoughts. But I think he was irresponsible and got all his heart. Song said, "Fortunately, the work was so busy that I was not allowed time to laze down." When I was tired, I recalled, 'Yes, because it is the Olympics.

The last task to overcome is "cold"

The biggest variable in the opening ceremony is the weather. According to the Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA), the average temperature in Daegwallyeong area during the last 10 years is minus 4.5 degrees Celsius. Temperatures are lower than minus 10 degrees due to stronger winds (average wind speed 3.6 to 12.9 meters per second) than in other regions. The organizers of the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games have installed windbreaks around the opening and closing ceremonies, but visitors are exposed to the cold for three to four hours. If a strong wind blows or snow falls, it will not be possible to perform according to the planned scenario. Because of this, amongst the staff, it is said that "God is a co-producer because the weather has to help". Song said, "We have prepared plans A, B and C according to the weather conditions, but it would be great if we can not show everything we have prepared."

Song is not worried about the fact that the people's enthusiasm for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics is not yet hot. He said, "The current Olympic heat seems to be about 50 ~ 60 degrees." As you can see from the Seoul Olympics and the World Cup, the interest of the people depends on the success or failure of the tournament. "It is fortunate that interest in the Olympics has increased due to the Pandong's long padding frenzy and the opening of the KTX racing line." "It is very meaningful for the national Olympic Winter Games to be held in advanced countries, so I hope the heat of the people will boil up to 100 degrees," he said.

■ Opening Ceremony is "Global Broadcast Show"

"Ready cue" at 8 pm on February 9, next year ... 35 OBS cameras go back

The opening ceremony of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics will start on February 9th at 8 PM. It is not easy to watch the opening ceremony by wrestling with a cold day in Pyeongchang, Gangwon Province. The process of returning to the hostel or home after the ceremony is not over.

Opening and closing ceremony of PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games
Pyeongchang Winter Olympics opening ceremony must be seen in the field is not necessarily the taste. Rather, watching TV at home can be a great way to feel the excitement of the event, Song said. Song said, "If you see the opening ceremony at the scene, you will be able to experience the vivid atmosphere of the scene." But if you look at the TV, you can appreciate the details that can not be confirmed on the spot. "

The reason he explained this is because of the 35 cameras of the OBS (Olympic Broadcasting Service, hosted by the International Olympic Committee) placed on the scene. It is more than twice as many as 10 Olympics that were mobilized at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. Song said, "The cameras that are located in every corner are going to convey the opening ceremony scene to the inside of the house." "We are working with OBS in advance."
Analogue hot air spreading ... 'Travel to find me'

Song is also shooting scenarios with NBC. NBC uses 30 cameras and broadcasts itself in North America. "There are about 35,000 spectators at the opening ceremony, but there are hundreds of millions of people watching on TV," he said. "I think teamwork with OBS and NBC is paramount to maximize the effectiveness of the publicity."

The PyeongChang Winter Olympics will make a new attempt to integrate advanced information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructures when broadcasting the games after the opening ceremony. KT plans to show a variety of services such as time slice and sink view through 5G, which features high speed and low delay (a technique that realizes important scenes) and connectivity at PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games. Visitors can experience most of the Olympic Winter Games, including figure skating, short track, bobsleigh and cross country.
In the cross-country skiing game called 'Snowy's Marathon', 'Omni Point View Service' is installed to show the ranking information and real-time video by installing 5G module. SinkView will also be showcasing the experience of putting the camera on a bobsled sled and looking at the players' eyes.


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4 hours ago, Ikarus360 said:


This article which was another interview with the ceremonies producer says they will do the first rehearsal at the stadium on January 15th. 

Also, bad news. The ceremony is, indeed,  going to last only two hours, this was confirmed by the Producer. They cite the extreme cold weather as the main reason. They, however, mention they want to make the parade of nations quickly in order to make up for it. 

What I managed to translate.

In all fairness, this could had been avoided if the stingy dunces of the organizing committee/govt back then would had carefully considered the harsh winters Pyeongchang has to face every year and included a roof for the stadium, but noooo...<_<

Well, hopefully as the time nears and we know if the temperatures are higher or not, they'll probably change their minds and extend the ceremony a bit. Probably 2.5 hours

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They plan to last 2 hours by "hurrying" athletes during the parade... How can they obbey the "walk fast!" command in such time of enjoy and hapiness???

It may works with Korean people, but not for people from all the globe... It surely will last, at least, 2.5 hours ... Unless the artistic segment be too short... even shorter than Athens and Rio (the shortest ones)...

But now we knoe that we are going to watch another "low budget" ceremony...  Rio overcame it perfectly!!! and the show was memorable!!!!


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3 hours ago, Nacholympic said:

They plan to last 2 hours by "hurrying" athletes during the parade... How can they obbey the "walk fast!" command in such time of enjoy and hapiness???

It may works with Korean people, but not for people from all the globe... It surely will last, at least, 2.5 hours ... Unless the artistic segment be too short... even shorter than Athens and Rio (the shortest ones)...

But now we knoe that we are going to watch another "low budget" ceremony...  Rio overcame it perfectly!!! and the show was memorable!!!!


Yeah. Hopefully, the artistic programme is longer than we expect and that Pyeongchang does an even greater show than both Athens and Rio.

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11 hours ago, Nacholympic said:

They plan to last 2 hours by "hurrying" athletes during the parade... How can they obbey the "walk fast!" command in such time of enjoy and hapiness???

It may works with Korean people, but not for people from all the globe... It surely will last, at least, 2.5 hours ... Unless the artistic segment be too short... even shorter than Athens and Rio (the shortest ones)...

But now we knoe that we are going to watch another "low budget" ceremony...  Rio overcame it perfectly!!! and the show was memorable!!!!


Yeah. Ceremonies usually always last longer than the planned time because of both the parade of nations and the speeches. My guess is they will reduce the number of athletes parading like it happened in Rio and will try to keep stuff like speeches/arrival of the President/national flag as short as possible. 

Probably the artistic segment will be the same length of Athens or Rio. The opening ceremonies producer wants to put a lot of things in that segment (natural landmarks of Korea, old folk tradition and modern/present Korea) which seem to be very hard to synthesize in something less than 30-25 minutes. If it's this lenght I can live with that. Athens and Rio were short but made up by being strong (there is this saying which says, good things, when they're shorter, they're twice as good. I hope this is the case with PC, which is why I don't want to judge this ceremony until i've seen it). Unlike Rio, though, the shortening of the show is not because of tight budget/economic crisis but because they want to protect the spectators and athletes from the harsh winter as much as possible. 

By the way, i've kept reading on many sources they apparently want to make the main artistic performance after the lightning of the cauldron (besides a welcoming segment). This reminds me a lot of Lillehammer '94 opening ceremony structure which was also kept kinda short because of the harsh weather but was nonetheless still pretty good. 

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On 07/01/2018 at 2:49 AM, Ikarus360 said:

The Beijing Olympic Games were worth 600 billion won and we are 60 billion won. [translation from http://www.sportsseoul.com/news/read/585543 ]

Weirdly, the figures given in the original are 6000억 and 600억, which are a little closer to the cost of staging an Olympic Games (at current exchange rates, $5.6 billion and $560 million) but I have a feeling they may just be generic expressions of differing magnitude.

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29 minutes ago, JMarkSnow2012 said:

Weirdly, the figures given in the original are 6000억 and 600억, which are a little closer to the cost of staging an Olympic Games (at current exchange rates, $5.6 billion and $560 million) but I have a feeling they may just be generic expressions of differing magnitude.

I think the translator might had a mistake. The translation I did of the very first interview with the producers said  the price was somewhat in the middle between Rio and London's budget.  Given the apparent short lenght of this ceremony, the budget being smaller makes sense, though. 

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I love the plaza.

You know how they said they are going to feature drones in the ceremonies.

Wouldn't it be nice if they used drones like the ones featured in this video:


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They were the Intel drones featured in the Lady Gaga halftime performance at the 2017 Superbowl. Hopefully, they will use drones like the ones shown at the Pyeongchang 2018 Ceremonies.

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At the CES conference being done right now, Intel displayed this related to the Winter Olympics. While it seems it was mostly focused to VR (they have used a lot of VR simulations of winter sports to promote these games), it makes you wonder if they do have a role behind the rumored drone segment. 


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Well, only One Month to go from today, and after the talks which began today, it was finally agreed by North Korea they will send an Olympic team to Pyeongchang.



North Korea to send team to Olympic Games in Pyeongchang


North Korea is to send a delegation to the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, taking place in South Korea in February, officials from the South say.

The breakthrough announcement came as the countries met for their first high-level talks in more than two years.

The delegation will include athletes, officials and supporters.

South Korea also proposed holding family reunions during the Winter Olympics for people separated by the Korean War.

The issue is a highly emotional one for both countries, and South Korea has constantly been pushing for more reunions to take place.

The reunions are expected to take place during the Lunar New Year holiday, which falls in the middle of the Pyeongchang Games.

Seoul also called for athletes from both Koreas to march together at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. It's not yet known how North Korea responded to those offers.

The last time both countries marched together under the Korean Peninsula flag was more than 10 years ago, at the 2006 Winter Olympics.

The talks began early Tuesday in the Panmunjom "peace village" in the demilitarised zone (DMZ) at the border.

Speaking afterwards, Seoul's vice unification minster Chun Hae-Sung told journalists: "The North side proposed dispatching a high-level delegation, National Olympic Committee delegation, athletes, supporters, art performers, observers, a taekwondo demonstration team and journalists" to the Games.

Seoul has also called for military talks with North Korea, according to Mr Chun.

Analysis: BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Seoul

A little over a week ago North Korea was threatening nuclear war - this morning a delegation from Pyongyang strode across the demarcation line that divides North and South Korea and agreed a North Korean delegation will attend the Pyeongchang Games.

It is a sudden and dramatic change after months of tension. But few in the south believe any of this demonstrates a fundamental shift in Pyongyang's position.

Experts say North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un has become increasingly fearful that the US is planning a military strike against him, and has decided he must do something to de-escalate tensions.

South Korea's president Moon Jae-in has been thrust in the delicate position of trying to engage the North in genuine dialogue, while not upsetting his very sceptical American ally.

South Korea's Pyeongchang chief had said last year that North Korean athletes would be allowed to cross the demilitarised zone into South Korea to compete in the Winter Olympics.

"All nations are very welcome, including North Korea," said Lee Hee-beom to Reuters.

But it was only earlier this year that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said he was considering sending a team to the Olympics in Pyeongchang in his New Year address.

The South then proposed high-level talks to discuss the North's participation, but the North only agreed to the talks after the US and South Korea agreed to delay their joint military exercises until after the Olympics. The North sees the annual drills as a rehearsal for war.

The International Olympic Committee had said last week that it "welcomed" North Korea's interest in participating in the Pyeongchang Games.


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Yay. I would like to see what happens at the Ceremonies. When the national anthem is played, will they raise the South Korean flag or the Unified Korea flag?

All I know is that it is possible that NK and SK will march as one team with the Unified Korea flag at the Opening Ceremony. This is quite a coincidence because the slogan for the Opening Ceremony is "Peace in Motion".

Wouldn't it be spell-bounding if NK got the message and Korea actually unified as one like Germany in 1989?

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^^ In the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, both Koreas marched as an unified team, using the Unified Flag. However after watching some small excerpts in YT, they did used the Taegeugki flag (in the closing they raised it and played South Korea anthem). Also I saw opinions of many online which say they will be very pissed if the Taegeugki is not displayed because the event, even with NK participation, is something they've prepared for many years as SK, even going through two crushing defeats. I think they will play the SK anthem and flag on the protocol while use the Unification Flag and both teams marching together for the parade.

NK is way too beyond reasoning. While I'm glad there will be peace talks to assure there will be security on these games, on the long term, i'm not that hopeful. Even during the Sunshine Policy, North Korea always loved to make all kind of provocations like testing missiles/shootings at the border/etcetera. Also China will do everything they can to avoid having a "proxy state of the US", as they say it .

At least the whole boogieman of NK attacking during the Olympics will finally be gone. This might help with the tickets sales on the remaining 31 days before the games start.

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Short video form inside the stadium (shortly before they raised the cablenet ring). It also shows the temperature is already at -9°C, as well for the heating generators/windshields already installed. We can also see a bit more of the LED lights on each of the seats and the Pagoda prop. 


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A pattern is evident in the temperature graph.The temperatures were higher during the even years. 2014 & 2016 were the highest temperatures. Since 2018 is an even year, the temperature would be higher than both 2014 & 2016. Nice. Pyeongchang 2018 may not be so cold after all.

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On 9/1/2018 at 6:54 PM, PikyoK said:

This must be the view from the VIP section of the stadium:


I can't see the pic, PikyoK.

Also this is the official joint statement of both South and North Korea



Democratic People's Republic of Korea has announced yesterday that DPRK will be participating in the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Here's an excerpt from the official statement explaining its details.

< DPRK-ROK Joint Statement – Translated from Korean Original Text >

A high level government meeting between DPRK and ROK was held in Panmunjom on January 9, 2018.

During the meeting both parties discussed DPRK participation in the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Games and issues to improve the South-North relationship, and to meet the hopes and desires of the entire Korean people, agreed as follows:

1. ROK and DPRK shall actively cooperate for the success of the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Games and both sides will cooperate so that it is an opportunity to enhance the pride of the Korean people.
In this regard, DPRK shall send a high level delegation and representatives of the DPRK Olympic Committee, in addition to athletes and officials, cheering squad, artistic performers, observer groups, Taekwondo demonstration team and media to the PyeongChang Olympic Games, and ROK shall support the necessary services for these groups.

Both parties agreed to hold working level meetings to discuss details of DPRK participation in PyeongChang 2018 including the visit of an advance party from the DPRK for site visits.  Specific dates of the working level meetings shall be discussed through written communication.

There are rumours they want to make a surprise performance of north korean artistic peformers at some part in the Opening Ceremony (or the preshow). Will we see Arirang Games on Ice? :lol: 

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Looks like the United States will send Vice President Mike Pence to PC2018 to represent the country, as well for Ivanka Trump.



Pence to Lead U.S. Delegation to Pyeongchang Olympics

© This is copyrighted material owned by Digital Chosun Inc. No part of it may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission.


U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will lead a U.S. delegation to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyengchang next month, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

A U.S. official told the daily that Trump will announce a list of the delegation members soon.

Ivanka Trump, Trump's eldest daughter and senior adviser, may also travel to Pyeongchang, the official added. But First Lady Melania Trump and Invanka Trump's husband Jared Kushner will not attend.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the lineup will be announced "in the coming days, and that will be when we release the names of who's attending."

In 2010, former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and his wife led the U.S. delegation to the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.

© This is copyrighted material owned by Digital Chosun Inc. No part of it may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission.


Also, remember the flagbearer guy who led Tonga at the Rio 2016 opening which everyone loved? :P Seems he's actually training in order to make it to Pyeongchang and repeat that same scene.




Tonga’s flagbearer in Rio is just one race away from making the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang – despite only stepping foot on snow for the first time in 2016. Pita Taufatofua opens up about his extraordinary life to Ben Snowball…

You may remember him as the glistening heartthrob who marched Tonga's flag into the Maracana ahead of the Rio Olympics, but underneath the chiselled and oily exterior is the ultimate underdog meets adversity tale. A 20-year journey from poverty to PyeongChang – he hopes – via family tragedy, a near-death experience, a wheelchair, a catalogue of failure and a swarm of naysayers hoping to pop his sporting dreams.


And yet those dreams live on. Pita Taufatofua is clinging onto hope of swapping taekwondo in Brazil for cross-country skiing in South Korea – a rare Summer-Winter Games double-act few have managed, and even fewer where the sports have no visible overlap.

From the outside looking in, the 34-year-old's chances of qualifying for February's showcase event seem remote... at best. He first stepped foot on snow in 2016 and, due to a complete lack of funding, has managed only a few weeks of proper training on the white stuff – and even those sessions have taken place on hopelessly inadequate rented skis. Oh, and his competition is 20-30kg lighter than him on average. Easy.


Not that he cares about being written off. Three times he was within touching distance of the Summer Games of 2004, 2008 and 2012; three times his dream was postponed. He still made it. Now, thanks to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) relaxing the entry criteria, allowing road roller skiing points to count towards qualification, Taufatofua has a shot at the impossible. He's banked four races under the required points quota – one more, albeit on snow, before January 21 and he's off to PyeongChang.


Pita Nikolas Taufatofua was born to an Australian mother, a nurse, and a Tongan father, a farmer. Eight of them crammed into a rickety one-bedroom house, complete with little electricity and no hot water. It was the least of their problems. As a kid, some of Taufatofua's internal organs started playing up, often leaving him sapped of energy and asleep for three days at a time. Doctors feared he wouldn't live to see his teenage years, but he confounded their expectations. His sister wasn't as fortunate, dying of leukaemia.

At school, he was a far cry from the imposing 6'3" figure who strutted through Rio's opening night. A lunch diet consisting solely of a slice of bread with butter – reduced to a morsel under the Tongan sharing tradition of 'Buckie', meaning break – saw him carry the wiriest of physiques, so much so that he couldn't even make a dent on the rugby team.

"I was the smallest kid in school," he tells Eurosport. "I tried rugby for four years. I went to every single rugby training session – not once was I put in the field. I never had a coach who would give me a shot, saying I was too small, too skinny, too slow. But in my head, I never saw what they saw.

"I was the little dog who didn’t know how little he was. ‘Just give me a shot. Just give me a shot.’ And they never did."

Instead, he acted as the team's water boy, all while a new passion bubbled within. But when Paea Wolfgramm returned from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics to a hero's welcome after winning a super heavyweight silver medal – to this day still Tonga's only podium moment – a diminutive 12-year-old hidden amongst the parade, hands wrapped around a big letter 'P' sign, knew what he had to do.

"That was the moment for me," he says. "That was when I said: 'I need to become an Olympian. I need to be like him.' No one believed me. But it grew in my head and I couldn’t get rid of this idea, even while my family was going through tough times."

And so he poured his focus into taekwondo, a sport he had practised since the age of five. His first major competition arrived in 2003 – his first sniff of an Olympic spot at the South Pacific Games. His parents had no money, but somehow scraped together enough for an airfare from Tonga to Fiji. It was a wasted trip. On the eve of the event, Taufatofua was told that Tonga's committee had chosen to field another athlete in his place. His Olympic dream was derailed before it had even begun.

"It was my first big failure. Parents being good parents were like 'it’s OK, we’ll come to the next one'. Then I tried for the 2008 Olympics. Missed out. Tried for the 2012 Olympics. Missed out."

Those latter two failures at least saw him compete. In 2008, with a spot in Beijing on the line, he led his final bout before suffering a torn ligament and fractured bone mid-contest. Despite his camp's protestations, he carried on fighting, quickly seeing his lead – and Olympic aspirations – vanish. Instead of boarding a plane to China, he was plonked in a wheelchair for eight weeks. The prognosis was stark: you will never compete again. It was six months before he walked unaided. Although he returned in 2012, he again missed out at the last hurdle. He had zero funding, zero sponsors and an aging, broken body. Time was running out.


"In 2016, I changed my mindset. It was 20 years now. There was no way I wasn’t taking Tonga to the Olympics this time."

Judgement Day arrived on February 27, 2016. The Oceanic Olympic Qualification +80kg final... and it went to golden point. Next kick wins a spot in Rio.

Taufatofua cast his mind back to his job as a youth worker with homeless kids, which he used to pay his student fees aged 18. It was here that his never-say-die attitude was forged; he was about to draw upon it when he needed it most.

"They taught me how strong the human mind can be. I saw stuff no one should ever go through. I thought my situation was bad. We had some really messed up things that had happened to these kids and yet they came out on top. They came out smiling. If they could go through that, then I could qualify for this freaking Olympics. The mindset had shifted from 'maybe' and 'what if I fail' to 'f*** it, Tonga needs this now.' I said a little prayer. 'I’ve asked you for 20 years. I need this now.'"

He landed the decisive blow. Rio was calling.


Sadly, his coconut oil-shimmering chest at the Opening Ceremony was the highlight of a short-lived adventure in Brazil. Taufatofua bowed out in the first round to Iran’s Sajjad Mardani, losing 16-1. But the Olympic bug had taken hold – and his next move only enhanced his viral appeal.

“It was always about the challenge. About something new and out of my comfort zone," he says, when pressed about why cross-country skiing was his chosen pursuit. “I was very curious about the snow and snow sports. I spent my whole life never seeing snow. We don’t really have a winter season. There’s a degree difference between summer and winter. I watched the Winter Olympics and it was the only sport that at the end of every race, everybody would just die. They’d be sprinting to the line with amazing energy, and then as soon as they crossed the line they just dropped."

He headed to snowy Los Angeles with the Olympic Channel, who got wind of his goal of competing at Summer and Winter Games. It was here that he first put on skis and realised the enormity of the task ahead:

"I was flailing everywhere. It was good for TV, but I was sitting there thinking ‘what have I got myself into? This is hard. I can’t even stand on these things, let alone race.’ I thought I would be better than this."

Four weeks of training later in Germany – the majority flailing upside down in the snow – and Taufatofua was on the startline for the World Ski Championships in Lahti, Finland, in February last year. He finished 153rd out of 156, securing 957 points – over 500 points adrift of the total he needs to get to PyeongChang. A theme that was woven throughout his life resurfaced: he was chasing an impossible dream.

He returned to the Pacific and began training on roller skis, spending his time mixing with the locals by ploughing into their cars, trees… and them. But it soon clicked. Despite having no natural aptitude for aerobic activity, he posted four credible results in Colombia on roller skis. So credible, in fact, that he was left chasing one more solid result on snow to reach South Korea.

A handful of races await between now and the January 21 qualification cut-off point. In 11 months, he’s gone from 957 points to 449 (the lower, the better) on snow. Depending on the event, that equates to about a minute in a one-hour race. A big ask, but by no means out of the question.

“People are too scared to try new things, to have big dreams and big goals. And they’re scared of failure. I don’t fear any of these things. Failing isn’t a problem. I’ve been told so many times what I can’t do. ‘You’re too old, give up. You’re too broken, give up.’ But after a while, I stopped listening. They didn’t know the future.”

Taufatofua’s big problem isn’t self-belief, but money. He’s skint and hoping to raise $30,000 (£22,000), not just to cover his globe-trotting to enter obscure races, but also to purchase a competitive set of skis. Skis that can make the difference between a bib number for PyeongChang and following the Games from a hammock. His GoFundMe page has already amassed $10,000, while he has vowed to write all his donators’ names on his race jacket, should he make PyeongChang.

“In my head, it’s 120%,” he says about his qualification. “In everyone else’s, it’s negative 10%. If they’re dragging me off the snow because I’ve passed out after nine kilometres in a race, that’s what will happen. No stone will be left unturned. I don’t want to get to January 21 and think ‘there was that little chance, and I missed it’. But if I don’t make, I’m going to be the happiest person because I know that life continues."


This isn’t the final chapter. Whether his winter’s tale ends on January 21 or February 25, Taufatofua isn’t ready to dine out on his unusual double-act just yet. He’s already planning a return to taekwondo ahead of Tokyo 2020, when he would be 36, and may yet take up another discipline.

"I’ve got unfinished business at the Summer Olympics. My goal is to become the ultimate sportsperson – in whatever sport I try to do. My goal is for people to look at me and think 'wow, no one could do that but he did it.' And then to relay it somehow to their life. Tokyo… It’s going to be more interesting. This story’s just beginning."

After 20 years of odds stacked against him – penny scraping, near-death experiences and curtain calls – Pita Taufatofua is still fighting. He hadn’t even seen snow 24 months ago; now he’s within a whisker of the Olympics’ most unlikely double. A poster boy for the #inspiration generation, who has already destroyed so many obstacles in his path.

"There’s a power in being able to hit rock bottom, then come back up," he concludes. "If I can do it, why can’t anyone else do it? Stuff is going to happen and drag us down – we can either sit there or we can celebrate hitting the bottom and say 'Yes! The only way is up'. Sometimes there’s a disconnect between Olympians and the average person. I want to bridge that gap. I don’t want to be remembered for trying for a medal, I want to be remembered for inspiring and encouraging people to dream big, to fail successfully, and to try again."


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I'm going to say 2 things that are most likely highly cynical and potentially a result of my impending march towards my mid 30s.....

But I honestly hope we don't see any unification flag of the Koreas, we had it in Sydney 2000 and to be honest I just think it's baseless symbolism that just isn't a reality at the moment. We all hope, but let's not pretend the peninsular is a paradise of unity at the moment. That's not to say the North shouldn't be engaged this year, I just think a unified march is all a bit *ho hum, here we go again*.

As for Pita, he's kind of managed to milk his 5 minutes of fame for the last 2 years and I guess it needs a jab in the arm and 2018 seems the perfect opportunity. 


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55 minutes ago, mattygs said:

I'm going to say 2 things that are most likely highly cynical and potentially a result of my impending march towards my mid 30s.....

But I honestly hope we don't see any unification flag of the Koreas, we had it in Sydney 2000 and to be honest I just think it's baseless symbolism that just isn't a reality at the moment. We all hope, but let's not pretend the peninsular is a paradise of unity at the moment. That's not to say the North shouldn't be engaged this year, I just think a unified march is all a bit *ho hum, here we go again*.

As for Pita, he's kind of managed to milk his 5 minutes of fame for the last 2 years and I guess it needs a jab in the arm and 2018 seems the perfect opportunity. 


It's not only you. I've read more and more articles from people who will be upset if the South Korean flag is not shown at the Opening Ceremony, arguing that even during Sunshine Policy, Kim Jong Il loved to keep provoking the south as much as possible and that it would be a display of "weakness" toward the north. However SK president seems to be persistent with the idea of an unified team at the Opening Ceremony. The decision about this is yet to be made, though. In Incheon 2014, though NK took part, they did so as a separate team on both the ceremonies and the games.

These pics were just uploaded and looks like they have installed the flagpoles for the Olympic and korean flags. I still have no idea if they will even raise more of the stage on those gaps around the central circle, given they look kind of dirty and unfinished.


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