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Olympics End With Closing Ceremonies

Feb 25, 2018
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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

The cauldron has been extinguished. The 23rd Olympic Winter Games has wrapped up in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CL: 2018, Korea. Let's go.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Closing ceremonies were held this evening Korea time to the beat of rap and K-pop and traditional Korean tunes. NPR's Melissa Block joins us to talk about the ceremony and the games themselves. Hey, Melissa.

MELISSA BLOCK, BYLINE: Hey, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Opening and closing ceremonies at the Olympics are big, splashy pageants, as we all know. What was the theme of this closing ceremony?

BLOCK: Well, peace, harmony, diversity - I think the themes that we tend to see at these ceremonies. We heard a mixture of traditional music and new music. We were just listening to the Korean rapper CL with her song "The Baddest Female." And what would a closing ceremony be without the shirtless, oiled-up Tongan? He was there, too.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Oh, wow. I am sorry I was not able to see that. A North Korean delegation was also there for the closing, as they were for the opening ceremony. How was that received?

BLOCK: Right. These Olympics have been promoted as a unity games. There was a lot of diplomatic maneuvering. And they ended up sending 22 athletes from North Korea to compete here. But still, the tensions have been high. The North Korean delegation that's here for the closing is led by a highly controversial figure, General Kim Jong Chul, who was accused of masterminding attacks on South Korea, including the torpedoing of a warship back in 2010 in which 46 sailors died.

So today, there was really a mixed message. We heard North Korea denouncing President Trump's announcement of what he called the heaviest sanctions ever on North Korea. North Korea was saying a blockade would be considered an act of war and calling its nuclear weapons a treasured sword for justice. So there was that. But then word also came tonight that South Korea's president, Moon Jae-in, met with the North Korean delegation. President Moon stressed that a dialogue between North Korea and the U.S. must open as early as possible. And according to the South Koreans, the North Koreans responded favorably, saying the regime is willing to engage in a dialogue with the U.S. So if that actually does bear fruit, that would be positive news indeed.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Yeah. And potentially real news out of these games.

BLOCK: Absolutely.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: One question hanging over the closing ceremony also was this - would the athletes from Russia who got caught up in another doping scandal be allowed to march under their country's flag? What happened?

BLOCK: Well, in a word, no. They were not allowed to. The IOC had dangled that prospect in front of the Russians, saying, if you behave, we will lift the sanctions we imposed because of your doping program. You can march under your Russian flag, not the neutral Olympic flag. But guess what? Two Russian athletes tested positive for banned substances at these games. So they didn't march under the Russian flag. Remember, though, 168 Russian athletes did compete in these games. This was not an all-out ban. And it's worth noting the Russian men's hockey team, which won the gold medal today, defied the sanctions, sang the Russian anthem at the medal ceremony, drowning out the Olympic anthem that was playing at the same time.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's NPR's Melissa Block, covering the Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. Thank you.

BLOCK: You're welcome, Lulu.

(SOUNDBITE OF SUFFER LIKE G DID'S "BEOW") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.