All good things must come to an end, and for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, what better way to go out than with a massive party?
More than two weeks since the opening ceremony officially kicked off the PyeongChang Winter Games, the country once again celebrated the athletes who put everything on the line. The closing event — like the opening ceremony — was also South Korea’s opportunity to once again show off its diverse art and culture for the world, and give everyone a final taste of Olympic glory until the 2020 Games in Tokyo.
The 2018 Winter Games were filled with many stunning and memorable moments, including Nathan Chen bouncing back from disastrous showings to become the first man to land six quads in one skate, Lindsey Vonn crying after learning she would hang on to the bronze medal in the downhill final — the only medal she would receive in what’s expected to be her last Winter Games — and Mirai Nagasu making history as the only U.S. woman to land a triple axel at the Olympics.
The closing ceremony, in part, is a fitting goodbye to an exciting two weeks.
Livestreamed as it’s happening at 6 a.m. on Sunday and set to broadcast on NBC in primetime with hosts Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir, alongside skating co-host Terry Gannon, the ceremony featured a large, choreographed program focused on the “Next Wave” theme.
“We have created a show that looks towards the future,” Oh Jang-hwan, Pyeongchang’s director of ceremonies, said before the event. “It includes quite a lot of traditional Korean humor and fun elements to add to the party feel.”
The event kicked off with dozens of skaters taking the ice to form Olympic rings, before the athletes marched out to the cheering crowd. Later, hundreds of drones dazzlingly formed the 2018 PyeongChang mascot, white tiger Soohorang, in the sky as athletes hoisted their nation’s flags in the stadium.
The event also included two medal ceremonies, starting with one for the women’s cross-country 300 km mass start, which wrapped up just several hours earlier. Norway’s Marit Bjorgen won gold. Finland’s Iivo Niskanen then received his gold for his win in the men’s 50k mass start cross-country race. The medals were presented by International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach.
Later, U.S. cross country gold medalist Kikkan Randall was announced as a newly elected member of the IOC athletes commission, and handed out gifts to 2018 Olympic volunteers.
To the delight of teenagers everywhere, the ceremony featured a slew of K-Pop celebrities, including the nine-member boy band EXO — one of the most popular musical acts in Asia.
Rapper CL — a former member of the popular girl group 2NE1 — also made an appearance. She is considered one of the most influential Korean artists today, and has even released a few English-language songs.
For Team USA, Jesse Diggins, who earned a history-making cross-country skiing gold medal alongside teammate Randall, served as flagbearer. Meanwhile, Ivanka Trump, President Donald Trump’s daughter, led the U.S. delegation, with White House press secretary Sarah Sanders in attendance.
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The ceremony also incorporated a passing of the torch to Beijing, which will host the 2022 Winter Games, before the Olympic cauldron was extinguished.
The closing ceremony is also the last event for Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium, which was exclusively built for both of the Olympic ceremonies (the first stadium of its sorts in Olympic history). Including both the opening and closing ceremony, the cost of the $109 million stadium came out to about $10 million per hour of use, according to scholar Judith Grant-Long of the University of Michigan. Shortly after the closing ceremony, the 35,000-seat stadium will be demolished.
As the stadium comes down and the events of the 2018 Winter Olympics live on in YouTube videos and Instagram pictures, the world must now wait until Beijing for the stories that began in PyeongChang to continue once again in four more years.