Competition has already begun in curling, luge and a few other sports in Pyeongchang, but the 2018 Winter Games do not get off to their spectacular start until Friday's opening ceremony. The two-hour spectacle is sure to feature more than a few surprise twists. Plus, More than a dozen men from Team USA's snowboarding squad vie for a spot in the slopestyle finals. There will be no shortage of must-see action.
Without further ado, here are five things to watch as we kick off the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics:
Opening Ceremony Expresses Hopes for Peace (Spoiler alert: The show actually happened at 5 a.m. CT, but with no commentary -- tune in to NBC 5 Friday at 7 p.m. for the full shebang)
Expect the showiness, glitter and splendor of past Olympic productions wrapped around a theme of peace. Hosted by Katie Couric and Mike Tirico, it'll take place in the open-air Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium and air live in virtual reality for an interactive, 360-degree viewing experience. The show will also feature the parade of nations, raising of the flag and more traditional components, like the lighting of the torch.
Few details about this year’s show have slipped out but here is what we do know. Organizers say the ceremony will reveal the pain of the divided Koreas and their people’s hope for peace, Nikkei Asian Review reported. The director of the opening ceremony, Yang Jung-woong, described it as a winter fairy tale seen as a dream in which children find peace through adventure.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will be in the audience. Accompanying Pence will be Fred Warmer, the father of Otto Warmbier, the American student who died after he was imprisoned in North Korea and returned home in a coma. Kim Jong Un’s younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, an increasingly influential figure, will be the first member of North Korea’s ruling family to visit the South.
Ralph Lauren designed the outfits for the U.S. delegation. Athletes will wear parkas and bomber jackets, each replete with their own heating systems. They'll have on stylish mountaineering boost, bandanas and suede gloves as well. Local luge star Erin Hamlin, who has said she'll retire after the Games in Pyeongchang, has been selected as a flag bearer for Team USA.
How to Watch: The complete spectacle in all its colorful glory, with commentary, will be streamed here at 7 p.m. CT. You can also watch it in primetime on NBC 5.
Must-See: Flags, Fireworks and More: the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony in Photos
Opening Ceremony Stars: South Korea's Yuma Kim, U.S.'s Erin Hamlin
The highlight of the ceremony remained a secret until the end: the final torch bearer to the light of Olympic cauldron was revealed to be Yuna Kim, a retired figure skater and South Korean superstar. Kim became the first South Korean to win a gold medal in figure skating at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010. Four years later in Sochi, hoping to become only the third woman to defend her gold medal, she placed second behind Russian Adelina Sotnikova.
Kim retired from competition and became a goodwill ambassador to promote the Pyeongchang Olympics.
Luger Erin Hamlin led the U.S. contingent. The 31-year-old from New York, competing in her fourth and likely last Olympics, was named the team’s flag bearer on Wednesday. She won a bronze medal in singles luge in Sochi, the first American to ever medal in the event.
Her moment also came with controversy. She won the honor over speedster Shani Davis - he claimed by a coin toss. “@TeamUSA dishonorably tossed a coin to decide its 2018 flag bearer. No problem. I can wait until 2022. #BlackHistoryMonth2018,” Davis tweeted.
Davis was not scheduled to attend the ceremony.
Must-See: Opening Ceremony Top Moments
Teenagers Represent U.S. in Slopestyle Snowboarding
Canadian and Norwegian snowboarders are the favorites in both men’s slopestyle and big air snowboarding, but two first-time Olympians should give the U.S. a chance: teenagers Chris Corning and Red Gerard.
Corning, 18, ranked 14th in slopestyle in the 2016-17 World Snowboarding Tour. His quick rise began the previous season. Gerard, at 17, could become the youngest American snowboarder to win a medal. He is two months younger than Chloe Kim, the favorite in women’s halfpipe.
At the last Winter Games, Ryan Stassel finished 14th in slopestyle.
Other top riders to watch: Canadians Mark McMorris, who competes in Pyeongchang about a year after surviving a terrible snowboarding accident that left him hospitalized, and Max Parrot, known for new tricks, as well as top Norwegian contender Marcus Kleveland.
How to Watch: CLICK HERE to watch the qualifying round live. The action starts at 7 p.m. CT.
Must-See: Flashback to Sochi - wildest crashes from the women's slopestyle
A Unified Korean Team Takes the Ice
A preliminary women’s hockey match features a unified team from North and South Korea versus Switzerland. It will be the first time that the two Koreas have competed together at the Olympic Games. The team is made up of 12 North Koreans and 23 South Koreans; 22 players will can compete in any game.
How to Watch: Click here to watch. The match starts at 6 a.m. CT.
Must-See: Eat like an Olympian: Best Korean dishes for athletes and fans
And the Gold Goes to…
Who will win Pyeongchang’s first gold medal? Medals will be awarded in five events on Saturday in South Korea (remember there's a 15-hour time difference, when it's Friday here, it's Saturday there), including events in biathlon, cross country, speed skating, short-track speed skating and ski jump.
But don’t be disappointed if the Star Spangled Banner isn’t playing in Pyeongchang on Saturday. Americans aren’t the favorite in any of these events.
How to Watch:
For coverage of the women’s biathlon, women’s 7.5 kilometer sprint CLICK HERE at 5:15 a.m. CT to watch live on digital platforms or tune in to NBC 5 beginning at 12 p.m. CT Saturday.
Women’s cross-country skiing, 7.5 kilometer plus 7.5 kilometer skiathlon. Watch live at NBCSN at 1:15 a.m. CT Saturday or CLICK HERE to watch on digital platforms.
Women’s speed skating, 3,000 meters at 5 a.m. CT. CLICK HERE to watch on digital platforms.
Men’s short-track speed skating, 1,500 meters, watch live on NBCSN at 4 a.m. CT Saturday or CLICK HERE to watch on digital platforms.
Watch men’s ski jumping, normal hill live at NBCSN at 6:35 a.m. CT Saturday or CLICK HERE to watch on digital platforms.
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