They marched in perfect formation, row upon row, side by side, synchronized, uniformed, heads straight, eyes forward, arms swinging, boots stomping, goose stepping.
Oh, wait, sorry. Wrong parade.
That was the one 100 miles north in Pyongyang a day earlier. This one was in Pyeongchang, on the southern side of the planet's most heavily-fortified border. North Koreans were marching, too, but they weren't in formation. There were no Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missiles rolling past on transporter erector launchers with nine axles.
The athletes parade Friday at the Opening Ceremony for the XXIII Winter Olympics occurred in a 35,000-seat stadium tucked into the mountains of Gangwon Province.
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North and South Koreans entered as one, arm in arm, laughing, smiling, dancing. One guy was on the shoulder of two others, slipped off and was picked up again. Each carried a tiny white flag with a light blue silhouette of the entire Korean peninsula, without a Demilitarized Zone snaking across its midsection like a surgical scar.
The other nations had a single flag-bearer. Korea had two, one from the North, one from the South, grasping the flag pole together, waving it vigorously as they strode forward.
It was the kind of magical, emotional moment that only the Olympics can deliver, a gesture of hope and reconciliation amid separation and conflict, a chorus of harmony in discordant times, a crackling fireplace on a frigid night.
"A very special moment for Korea," said bobsledder Won Yun-jong, one of Korea's flag-bearers. "It is special that we are here, peaceful and together."
Speaking with the Korean athletes immediately behind him, like a general backed by his troops, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said: "United in our diversity, we are stronger than all the forces that want to divide us."
On and on it went, the images, the words, the music. The message.
The two-hour ceremony, called "Peace in Motion," followed the journey of five children through time and space "on a quest for peace." South Korean President Moon Jae-in, the son of North Korean refugees, earnestly shook hands with members of the North Korean delegation as their athletes circled the stadium floor below. A North and South Korean member of the unified women's hockey team climbed the stadium's stairs together and jointly handed the torch to figure skating gold medalist Yu-na Kim to dramatically light the caldron while gliding across an elevated sheet of ice.
Four Korean singers belted out John Lennon's iconic "Imagine" while 1,000 residents from Gangwon Province – the only one that straddles both sides of the border – formed a giant dove of peace around them with candles flickering in the dark night.
The last time the South Koreans incorporated the dove of peace in Opening Ceremony, at the 1988 Summer Games, it didn't go so well. Live doves were released in the air, and some flew up and landed on the edge of the giant caldron as three athletes with torches rode a rising platform skyward to light it.
Torches touched caldron, and you had the type of Korean barbeque organizers didn't intend. (Or as someone, in an ode to Prince, commented beneath a YouTube video of the incineration: "This is what it sounds like, when doves fry.")
Whether Friday's dove meets a figuratively similar fate, time will tell. History offers a dubious forecast.
The noble idea of the interlocking rings untangling political conflict is rooted in the Olympic Truce of ancient Greece, a mandate engraved on a bronze discus and stored in the Temple of Hera that guaranteed safe passage for athletes and spectators to Olympia for the Games. What history forgets is it lasted for a month or two, maybe three at the most, after which warring states and provinces were free to resume fighting (and often did).
North and South Korean athletes joyously marched as one at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, and what did that get us? Less than two decades later, relations are as chilly as ever.
A day earlier in the North Korean capital of Pyongyang, Kim Jong Un watched soldiers march past his viewing stand in a massive military parade in all its insidious pomp and circumstance, moved forward this year – what a coincidence – from its usual April date. According to military observers, it featured a new short-range ballistic missile that appears to be a cross between the Russian Iskander and South Korea's Hyunmoo-2. Also on display were Hwasong-12 missiles that sailed over Japan last year in tests.
It was held at the same time as a North Korean delegation to the Olympics was attending a welcome reception.
"As long as imperialism is present on the Earth and the U.S.'s hostile policy against North Korea continues," Kim told the assembled (and shivering) masses in a speech, "the mission of the Korea People's Army is to be the strong sword that protects the country and people, and peace can never change."
On Friday, U.S. Vice President Michael Pence was in Pyeongchang, standing in the VIP box in a stadium shaped ominously like the Pentagon, watching athletes march past. Next to him was his invited guest, Fred Warmbier, whose son was detained on a sightseeing trip in North Korea, jailed for 17 months, allegedly tortured and returned home shortly before his death.
The North and South Koreans will play nice on snow and ice for the next 16 days, joining to form a single women's ice hockey team that will lose games and melt hearts. People will cheer. People will hope.
The Olympics still represent a powerful ideal, but they are also an increasingly corrupt and morally bankrupt movement, unable to stem the scourge of doping, unwilling to prevent the Games from becoming financial behemoths that render their hosts insolvent. They no longer may be stronger than all the forces that divide them.
Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium was built exclusively for Opening and Closing Ceremonies in the Winter Games and the Paralympics that follow. With no future use for a 35,000-seat facility in a remote, mountainous region, it is constructed of metal bleachers and modular seats, and surrounded by temporary tents.
The ceremony program Friday calls it "a space for interaction, friendship and peace." After the flame is extinguished at the Paralympics next month, the space for interaction, friendship and peace will be dismantled.