10 Feb 2018

New Zealand march on Pyeongchang Olympics

6:58 am on 10 February 2018

Beau-James Wells flew the flag as New Zealand's Winter Olympians marched at a Pyeongchang Games opening ceremony punctuated with colour, culture and the freezing cold.

New Zealand Freestyle skier Beau James Wells

New Zealand Freestyle skier Beau James Wells Photo: 2014 Ian MacNicol

Clad in the flagbearer's traditional cloak Te Mahutonga, Wells led a 32-strong Kiwi contingent of athletes and officials, including his brothers Jackson and Byron on Friday night.

New Zealand was the seventh country to march, following the order of the Korean alphabet, at the full Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium.

As the ceremony started, the lights dimmed and crowd cheered as fireworks exploded above the stadium and under a seemingly delighted North Korean cheering delegation.

The ceremony's programme follows the journey of five children as they travel through time from the past to the future and "discover peace envisioned by Koreans".

Tongan cross-country skier Pita Taufatofua, who's flag-carrying shirtless appearance at the Rio 2016 opening ceremony made worldwide headlines, again shocked and delighted by bearing his oiled torso in freezing temperatures.

He wore a manafau, a traditional dance skirt, and jandals.

"I won't freeze. I am from Tonga. We sailed across the Pacific. This is nothing," Taufatofua said.

Earlier on Friday, Wells spoke of the pride not only in leading the New Zealand team, but representing his family which has stood at the forefront of snow sport in the country.

But while Jackson will become the fourth Winter Olympian Wells brother when he competes, bittersweet perhaps was that the eldest sibling Jossi has remained at home after withdrawing from the Games with a knee injury.

North and South Korean teams marched together, waving and smiling behind flagbearers, women's ice hockey player Hwang Chung Gum from the North and South Korean bobsledder Won Jun Yong, who both carried the unification flag.

It is the fourth time the two Koreas have marched together at an Olympic opening ceremony, following Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Turin 2006.

Russian athletes meanwhile marched into the stadium behind the Olympic flag as independent Olympic Athletes from Russia, following their country's ban over doping.

A volunteer from the Korean organisers carried the flag.