By Kang Yoon-seung
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea, Feb. 9 (Yonhap) -- International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach on Friday cheered the two Koreas' efforts to march together at the opening ceremony, highlighting that the movement reflects the spirit of the competition.
"While you compete with each other, you live peacefully together in the Olympic Village, respecting the same rules, sharing your meals and your emotions with your fellow athletes," Bach said during the opening ceremony which took place at the PyeongChang Olympic Stadium in the alpine town located 180 kilometers east of Seoul.
"A great example of this unifying power is the joint march here tonight of the two teams from the National Olympic Committees of the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea," he added. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea is the official name of North Korea.
Pyongyang sent 22 athletes to the 2018 Winter Games, with two Koreas establishing a joint team for women's hockey.
Athletes from Seoul and Pyongyang marched together under the Korean Unification Flag, with the image of a blue Korean Peninsula, signaling a potential reconciliation between the two, which have been divided for around 70 years.
"Two years ago in Rio de Janeiro, with the first-ever Refugee Olympic Team, the IOC sent a powerful message of hope to the world," Bach said, claiming that two Korea's march again sent another message of peace.
"United in our diversity, we are stronger than all the forces that want to divide us." Bach said. "We all join and support you in your message of peace."
The IOC head also cheered the efforts made by South Korea to prepare for the country's "first Olympic Games on snow and ice."
"Thank you to everyone who has made this moment possible. A special thanks goes to the thousands of volunteers who have welcomed us so warmly," he said.
A whopping 102 gold medals are up for grabs at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, with nearly 3,000 athletes from 92 countries competing at its events. It marks a rise from the 2014 Winter Games, where athletes from 88 countries battled for 98 gold.
The games will run through Feb. 25, with events set to run in PyeongChang, along with adjacent sub-host cities of Gangneung and Jeongseon.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach delivers a speech during the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, located 180 kilometers east of Seoul, on Feb. 9, 2018. (Yonhap)