On Sunday, Feb. 25, the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics are, sadly, coming to an end. To wrap up the two weeks of athletics and global unity, a closing ceremony will be held in South Korea, featuring whichever athletes stuck around for the grand event. The closing ceremony is similar to the Olympic opening ceremony in many ways, including that there is an official march for all of the participating nations. However, the order athletes walk in at the Olympics closing ceremony is different from the order they walk in for the opening ceremony, and it's for a very sweet reason.
During Olympic opening ceremonies, there is a Parade of Nations in which every country's athletes marches into the stadium as a team, following the one special person who was chosen to carry the flag. The first team to walk in is always Greece, since it was the birthplace of the Olympics. After Greece, the order of countries in the opening ceremony parade changes depending on who's hosting the Olympics. The national teams enter the stadium in alphabetical order based on the language of the host nation (so, this year, it was alphabetical in Korean).
Things change up for the closing ceremonies. Instead of walking in a specific, objective order, there actually is no order at all for the closing ceremony. Instead of a parade of nations, it's a parade of athletes. The official Olympics site notes in a 2014 post that this is supposed to symbolize all of the athletes "coming together as 'one nation' in a contagious, party-like atmosphere."
This has been the case for the closing ceremony since the 1956 Olympics, which were held in Melbourne, Australia (which, yes, fans of The Crown, was the one Prince Philip opened). According to the Olympics site, a Chinese apprentice carpenter, John Ian Wing, who was living in Australia suggested that all of the athletes from every nation walk together instead of divided by country "as a symbol of world unity." Wing was just 17 years old at the time, according to the National Museum of Australia, and he wrote in his suggestion to the Olympic organizers.
Clearly, it wasn't a bad suggestion. For over 60 years, Olympians have followed Wing's idea in a demonstration of international togetherness. For the idea, Wing was honored when the Australian Institute of Sport opened in 1986, per the National Museum of Australia.
It's a pretty beautiful idea that very nicely sums up what the Olympic Games are supposed to represent in the first place. Yes, the games are all about competition, but they're also about bringing the world together in a show of peace.
After the athletes walk in all together, they get to hang out with whoever they want and watch the closing ceremony proceed. The closing ceremony typically includes speeches and performances — just like the opening ceremony. The torch is also ceremonially passed along to the next Olympic host city, which, this time around, is Tokyo, who is hosting the 2020 Summer Olympics. This year, K-pop fans are hyped up to see EXO and CL perform in PyeongChang. And given how stunning the PyeongChang opening ceremony was, there's bound to be more amazing sights.
Although the athletes walk en masse, there are still flags for every participating country. Just like with the opening ceremony, the person who carries the flag is specially chosen by their country as the representative. For the PyeongChang closing ceremony, cross-country skier Jessie Diggins, who dramatically pushed the U.S. team to a gold medal in the team sprint, will have the honor of carrying the American flag. While it is certainly an honor, it's just one small part of the unifying ceremony that closes out the games. I can't wait to see it all go down.