Olympics: Message of peace sent out as Pyeongchang Olympics concludes

A message for peace and harmony, featuring a mythical Korean "turtle" representing longevity, set the theme as the curtain fell at the closing ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics on Sunday. Athletes from the over 90 countries competing in 102 medal events across seven sports and 15 disciplines entered Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium in loosely formed groups, some waving small flags representing their countries and carrying selfie sticks, before taking seats reserved for them in the stands. Nao Kodaira, the gold medal winner in the women's 500 meters and silver medalist in the women's 1,000, was flagbearer for Japan. Pyeongchang Mayor Sim Jae Guk passed the Olympic flag to International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, who handed it over to Beijing Mayor Chen Jining. "Over the past 17 days, we have experienced Olympic Games rooted in tradition and showing the way to the future. They have proved true the words of our founder, Pierre de Coubertin, when he said the Olympic Games are a homage to the past and an act of faith in the future," Bach, who declared the games closed, said in his speech. "To our gracious hosts, the people of Korea, I say: thank you." South Korean President Moon Jae In had held talks with Kim Yong Chol, head of the North Korean ruling party's United Front, hours before attending the event with Kim, who arrived earlier in the day in South Korea as chief of a high-ranking North Korean delegation to the closing ceremony. Protesters demonstrated against the visit by the suspected culprit behind deadly attacks on the South. U.S. President Donald Trump's daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump, who also met with Moon earlier in the day and urged putting "maximum pressure" against the North over its missile and nuclear ambitions, also attended the closing ceremony, making for a striking tableau as the group waved to the crowd from high above in the arena. "William Shakespeare once said, in Romeo and Juliet, 'Parting is such sweet sorrow.' Even though we are now saying goodbye to each other, Pyeongchang 2018 will be long remembered with beautiful and unforgettable memories," said Pyeongchang Olympic organizing committee President Lee Hee Beom. After a countdown affirming a "Dream for Tomorrow" and the raising of the South Korean national flag and singing of its national anthem, teenage prodigy Yang Tae Hwan played his electric guitar from the highest point in the stadium while a solo dancer performed the traditional "Spring Dance of Nightingale" below. The turtle formed by a group of illuminated puppeteers traveled in a funeral procession in memoriam of elite athletes who have passed away to the center of the stadium where it separated, embarking on another journey to convey the memories of the games. In the segment dubbed "The Next Wave," 40 dancers did a combination of modern dance and new media art, representing a break from convention as the Olympic movement sets its sights on Beijing. K-pop singer CL took to the stage for her song "The Baddest Female" and also sang 2NE1's hit song "I Am the Best" with a group of 20 professional dancers who carried torches. After the Olympic flame was extinguished, the final segment to music composed by music director Yang Bang Ean -- an ethnic Korean who grew up in Japan -- featured a cast of about 480 members. DJ Raiden then pumped his electronic dance music as the athletes, holding LED balls, joined in the closing celebration.

2 hours ago | KYODO NEWS

Olympics: Japan's Takagi wins women's mass start speed skating

Nana Takagi became the first Japanese woman to win multiple gold medals in a single Olympics on Saturday, when she triumphed in the Pyeongchang Games women's mass start speed skating race. Takagi hung back with the pack and entered the all-important final sprint drafting behind Dutch skater Irene Schouten. The 1.55-meter Takagi cruised low in the slipstream of the 1.68-meter Dutchwoman until the final turn, when Schouten drifted improbably wide, allowing Takagi a clear inside path to the finish line. Following her victory on Wednesday in team pursuit, Takagi became the first Japanese athlete with two Winter Games gold medals since ski jumper Kazuyoshi Funaki won two at the 1998 Nagano Olympics in Japan. South Korea's Kim Bo Reum captured the silver, while Schouten won bronze. The race marked the Olympic debut of the mass start event. "Getting to stand on the top step of the podium is the greatest," said Takagi, who stumbled in her debut at the Gangneung Oval, finishing 12th in the 5,000 meters on Feb. 16. "A lot of frustration was left from that first race, but in my last two races I skated really well. I really settled down after winning in the team pursuit. This has become just the greatest Olympics." Ayano Sato, also a team pursuit gold medalist, was knocked down in her semifinal. Sato, who won a World Cup mass start in the Netherlands in November, fell over Ivanie Blondin after the Canadian had lost her balance heading into the second sprint of the 16-lap race. Although Blondin carried on skating, she failed to qualify for the final. Annouk van der Weijden of the Netherlands was also involved in the accident but went on to advance. "There were two Dutch girls in the final and I figured they were going to be on the podium, so I figured if I could stick to them, I could get a medal, too," Takagi said. "After what happened to Ayano, I felt like I was skating for two of us and that motivated me more." Sato hurt her arm in the crash, and was crushed by not being able to skate side by side with her teammate. "I so wanted to win a medal, cooperating with Nana in the final, so this is so frustrating," she said. Kim said of her silver, "I am very happy with this medal. I will treasure this medal forever." "Ever since when I started at 14 or 15 I wanted to get a medal and I am very happy to get this medal for my country." Schouten admitted she had paid the price for getting her tactics wrong. "I'm sorry I didn't have a gold medal. It is a game, so not every time the best one wins. My teammate (van der Weijden) had a lot of pain in the knee so the plan didn't work out. I went too early in the front. That's why I lost the last 100 meters." South Korea's Lee Seung Hoon, a team pursuit silver medalist, won the men's mass start, while Belgium's Bart Swings took silver, and the Netherlands' Koen Verweij earned his second bronze of these games. Japan's Shane Williamson finished 11th in the men's final. The semifinal and final races each consist of 16 laps with intermediate sprints after four, eight and 12 laps, and a final sprint. Rankings are based on points gained in sprints, then by finish time for athletes not scoring any points. The winner of each of the first three sprints earns five points, while the first three skaters to cross after the final 16th-lap sprint earn 60, 40 and 20 points in order of their finish.

Feb 25, 2018 | KYODO NEWS