March 2018
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Two Koreas, extreme cold at Olympics' gala opening
(Pyeongchang, Feb 9, 2018): The Pyeongchang Winter Olympics will open in sub-zero temperatures on Friday, with North and South Korea marching together at a gala ceremony to launch what could be the coldest Games on record.

Russia, banned from the Games over a state-sponsored doping conspiracy, will nevertheless be represented by one of the biggest delegations, although Russian athletes will march behind a neutral flag.

Shivering athletes are bracing for one of the coldest Winter Olympics yet, with temperatures plunging well below zero, while a debilitating norovirus bug has already infected more than 100 people working at the Games.

Dubbed the "Peace Olympics" by the South Korean government, the Games have ushered in an apparent thaw in ties with the nuclear-armed North, after months of fiery rhetoric and weapons tests.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has dispatched a delegation of more that 500, including his increasingly influential sister Kim Yo Jong. She is the first ever member of the ruling Kim dynasty to visit the south.

The United States government is represented by the hawkish Vice-President Mike Pence, who will be accompanied by Fred Warmbier, father of Otto Warmbier who died aged 22 after being detained in North Korea for a petty offence last year.

Underlining the complexities of the Korean peninsula, just a day before the ceremony the North Koreans issued a timely reminder that peace diplomacy is backed by military might.

On Thursday, fireworks lit up the sky and goose-stepping soldiers and ballistic missiles paraded through the North Korea capital to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the country's armed forces.

Twenty-two North Korean athletes are taking part, but only pairs skaters Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik have a real shot at a medal.

North Korea's glamorous cheerleaders are expected to make a bigger impact than their athletes. More than 200 sharply dressed young women, dubbed the "Army of Beauties", will be cheering on their competitors from the stands. Some are also expected to attend the opening ceremony.(AFP)

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