Team USA has arrived!
U.S. Olympians marched into PyeongChang Olympic Stadium at the 2018 Winter Olympics with wide smiles on Friday during the ceremonial kick-off of the Games. The group added a special touch to the opening ceremony as South Korea showcased its culture through performance and spectacle on the world stage.
The group waved and danced into the venue, and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence gave a wave to the athletes from the stands.
Many of the U.S. athletes sported Americana-inspired outfits provided by Polo Ralph Lauren at the event. The ensemble featured slim-fit moto jeans, fringed cowboy gloves, a tricolor wool knit sweater, a navy bandana and brown suede mountaineering boots with red laces.
Creators kept the cold weather in mind when designing the outfits. The athletes’ limited-edition down parkas are embedded with an interior heating system made of conductive carbon and silver ink and printed in the design of an American flag.
Leading the U.S. crew was Olympic luger Erin Hamlin — the first U.S. athlete to win an Olympic singles luge medal.
“It was a pretty big shock,” Hamlin said of learning she’d be leading the pack. “But it is an honor and a privilege to be recognized by all of Team USA.”
With at least 240 athletes competing at the 23rd Winter Olympics, Hamlin carried the flag with the largest U.S. contingent ever — although her selection was not without controversy. Speed skater Shani Davis called the decision “dishonorable” after he lost a coin toss to her.
Pence’s appearance at the Games is also controversial. Gay figure skater Adam Rippon has said he did not want to meet with the vice president during the competition, due to the politician’s record on LGBT rights. Pence later tweeted his interest in meeting Rippon, while the athlete said he’s potentially open to a meeting with the politician after the Games.
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NBC’s Katie Couric and Mike Tirico (taking over for the now-retired Bob Costas) covered festivities from the stadium, which seats 35,000 and was built specifically for the opening and closing ceremonies.
In a highly anticipated gesture, athletes from both South and North Korea marched under one unified flag during the ceremony. The move has been touted as an important step in relations between the two feuding countries, and also symbolizes the power of sport.
The 2018 Winter Olympics will air live starting Feb. 8. To learn more, visit teamusa.org.