It’s almost time for the Olympics to officially begin. Athletes from around the world have gathered in Pyeongchang, South Korea, for this year’s Winter Games, which will formally begin at 8 P.M. local time Friday night—or, for stateside viewers, around 6 A.M. Eastern on Friday. (Technically, the Games have already started, with sports like mixed doubles curling and ski jumping, but the biggest competitions are yet to come.) What should we expect from the big kickoff? Here’s what we know.
Katie Couric and Mike Tirico will host NBC’s broadcast of the event, which will not air on NBC itself until 8 P.M. Friday; it will, however, be available to livestream across NBC digital platforms and apps. (You’ll need a cable log-in, though.) Olympic bronze medalist Erin Hamlin will be carrying the flag for Team U.S.A. at the Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium. (If you’d like to read more about the most headline-grabbing athletes who make up Team U.S.A. this year, you can do so here.) According to Couric, who has already watched a rehearsal of the opening rites, it’s going to be a sight to remember: “Can’t post anything from it,“ Couric wrote on Instagram, “but if tonight is any indication, it’s going to be spectacularly beautiful.”
The opening ceremony schedule, per the Telegraph, is as follows:
- Entry by the head of state
- Playing of the national anthem
- The parade of participants
- The symbolic release of pigeons
- The head of state declares the Games open
- Raising the Olympic flag and playing the Olympic anthem
- The taking of the Olympic oath by an athlete
- The taking of the Olympic oath by an official
- The taking of the Olympic oath by a coach
- The Olympic flame and the torch relay
- The artistic program
Oh, and about those ceremonial birds: the Telegraph adds that due to a particularly gruesome incident at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, the pigeon protocol has changed. Specifically: “The symbolic release of pigeons has recently been adapted after a number of birds were accidentally incinerated when the Olympic torch was lit in the opening ceremony of the Seoul games.”
Who’s going to be there? Expect a vast swath of NBC anchors, includingSavannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb, as well as Saturday Night Live star and Olympics enthusiastLeslie Jones. Also in attendance will be Mike Pence and Ivanka Trump, who will attend the opening and closing ceremonies, respectively. This year, North and South Korea will march together in the parade of nations under a unity flag—a gesture the countries’ delegations have opted to do only nine times in history, most recently at 2007’s Asian Winter Games. The move is fitting, as this year’s opening ceremony will reportedly focus on a message of peace. As usual, details are scarce as far as what specifically to expect, but look for a blend of Korean cultural elements both old and new—including, yes, a dash of K-pop.
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