By Philip O’Connor
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) – A martial arts display by North Korean athletes at the opening ceremony for the 2018 Winter Games was met with silence at the Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium, with the only supportive noises coming from North Korean cheerleaders high in the stands.
The display of the traditional martial art of taekwon do was part of a joint effort with South Korea as the stadium filled up, and the host nation’s segment was accompanied by a pop version of a traditional Korean folk song.
The hosts performed a fast-paced routine choreographed to the music, delighting the crowd as they smashed planks of wood in time to the music.
But when the North Korean athletes took over, it became a more austere affair.
Their display also featured much breaking of wood and the smashing of some concrete blocks, but it was accompanied by guttural shouts from the martial artists as the majority of the crowd looked on in silence.
The only support for the North Korean section seemed to come from two groups of red-and-white clad female cheerleaders sitting in orderly rows and waving Korean unity flags, who whooped and cheered loudly during the entire display.
Barefoot in the freezing temperatures, some of the athletes needed several attempts to break their objects, but the arena floor was littered with broken timber by the time the South Koreans joined them for a joint finale.
(This version of the story was refiled to fix typo in first paragraph)
(Reporting by Philip O’Connor; Editing by Gareth Jones)