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Sport Olympic Games North Korea South Korea

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North Korean cheerleaders, extreme cold and stomach flu arrive for Olympics

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The site of the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, which run 9-25 February 2018. Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch

A huge ferry from North Korea arrived in South Korea on Tuesday, ahead of this week’s Winter Olympic Games opening ceremonies in a very cold city of Pyeongchang.


The ferry took advantage of a rare exemption on sanctions from Seoul to deliver 140 members of an orchestra and 230 cheerleaders dressed in identical bright red winter coats to perform at opening ceremonies on Friday.

The two Koreas have sought to present the Games as an opportunity to warm relations, and their athletes will march under the same flag at the opening ceremonies.

Not all Koreans agreed, and the boat was met by several hundred protesters waving South Korean and US flags and carrying placards with black crosses drawn over images of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The decision has also upset Seoul’s allies in Washington, although some US athletes have seen it in a positive light.

“I think it’s great that the North Koreans will be able to compete in these games,” said two-time Olympic champion alpine skier Ted Ligety.

“Part of the mission of the Olympics is to be inclusive and try to bring the world together, so I think that’s a positive thing.”

Warming relations, dropping temperatures

While all Winter Games may be expected to be a bit chilly, organisers are warning athletes and spectators to brace for the coldest Olympics since 1994.

Meteorologists are forecasting temperatures as low as minus 20 degrees Celsius.

Some local staff have reportedly fallen under the weather in other ways, as well.

An outbreak of a severe stomach flu known as the norovirus has taken a toll on staff in Pyeongchang, including 41 security personnel who were hospitalised on Sunday.

This has led organisers to pull 1200 security guards from their duties and replace them with 900 soldiers drafted from South Korea’s army.