The five rings of the Olympic flag represent the five continents of the world uniting in spirit of games and athleticism. While this year’s winter events take place during a tense time globally, with conflict in the Middle East and missile threats from North Korea, the Olympics provide us with a unique opportunity to put political strife aside and compete in a social setting.

This year’s Olympics have found some countries taking a stand for peace. North Korea and South Korea marched together during the opening ceremony under the Korean Unification Flag, which displays the entire peninsula and outlying islands. This is largely a display of diplomacy, used in conjunction with other events such as the joint training of skiers at a North Korean ski resort, a joint cultural event at Mount Kumgang, and a joint women’s hockey team. The trip by Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un’s younger sister, was another extraordinary show of Olympic diplomacy by North Korea. At the opening ceremony, she met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, marking the first time a member of the Kim dynasty has traveled to South Korea outside of war. It has yet to be seen how much progress the diplomatic talks between South Korea and North Korea will bring. Some observers suspect that North Korea is initiating talks to buy time to prepare nuclear weapons, while others dismiss this as speculation that only serves to harm peace efforts. Despite the controversy, it is clear that North and South Korea are uniting in peace for the world to see at the Olympic Games. And while such actions may not immediately ensure global peace, the countries are taking one step closer.

However, other problems have arisen, including the International Olympic Committee banning Russia from participating in the games. While athletes from Russia who received special dispensation are allowed to complete, they must do so as independent athletes, or “Olympic Athletes from Russia” competing under the Olympic flag. Because of this, their flag was not displayed during the opening ceremony and Russian athletes will not win any medals for their country. This harsh punishment was a result of the discovery that Russia had been executing an extensive state-backed doping program. Russian athletes have had doping incidents in the past, but it has never been exposed on such a large scale. In response to Russia’s disqualification, “Fancy Bears,” a Russian nationalist hacker group, published illegally-obtained IOC emails corresponding to their research about Russian doping, which the group believed showed bias against Russian athletes. Despite Fancy Bears’ attempt to sensationalize the emails, nothing out of the ordinary was found. It is rumored that the Russian flag may fly during the closing ceremony as a symbol of goodwill, but no officials have yet confirmed these rumors.

While the Olympics are riddled with political events, most watchers and athletes focus on the simple pleasure of the competitions, whether it’s intricate figure skating or terrifying ski races. Bridging politics and peace, the Olympics provide an opportunity for the world to unite for fun and games.

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