GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — The first Olympic game in the history of South Korean men's hockey got an unexpected visitor Thursday night: North Korea's cheerleading troupe.
The cheerleaders have attended the Korean women's games so far, with that team having players from both North Korea and South Korea. But the South Korean men's team has no North Korean players; it has18 South Koreans and seven North Americans — one from the United States and six from Canada — who are dual citizens.
The Korean women's games have been popular all week, even though they have lost each game. The men's opener against the Czech Republic was raucous as well, with a big crowd as well as the cheerleaders.
Around Gangneung Hockey Centre, South Korean fans carried flags and wore jerseys of the national team and some clubs in the Asian League. Some stopped what they were doing to take selfies of pictures of about 200 North Korean cheerleaders, who marched in wearing red jackets and surrounded by security and sat in the section behind the net where the Czechs defend twice.
As they did at figure skating and women's hockey, the cheerleaders — this time dressed in blue and white tops and red pants — waved flags showing the Korean Peninsula and danced, swayed, sang and chanted in unison. As loud as they were, they couldn't be heard across the arena over the blare of a Korean rapper performing live.
The cheerleaders were joined in the stands by four dancers in traditional costumes with veils with a few more in different traditional dress. Around the group was a significant security presence, including people with accreditations reading, "National Counter Terrorism Center."
AP Sports Writer James Ellingworth contributed.
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