Canada front and centre as flag is raised in Olympic athletes' village

Canadian team is comprised of 255 athletes and 87 coaches

Canada front and centre as flag is raised in Olympic athletes' village
Team Canada athletes celebrate in the Gangneung Olympic Village as the Canadian flag is raised in Pyeongchang, South Korea. © David Jackson/Canadian Olympic Committee

By Joshua Clipperton, Canadian Press

With the late-afternoon sun out of sight and the temperature dropping fast, Canadian figure skater Patrick Chan and his Olympic teammates moved back and forth trying to keep warm as South Korean dancers performed a few metres away.

Before they knew it, Chan and the rest of the Canadians were front and centre as part of the show.

Canada's Olympic contingent was welcomed to the Gangneung athletes' village on Wednesday with a ceremony and flag raising in a wind-swept asphalt plaza next to the meal hall.

But after the official duties were completed, the dancers — some in traditional dress and others in new-age attire — wove their way through the crowd of Canadians, grabbing hands as they went to get the athletes involved in the routine.

"It was unexpected, but it did keep us warm," said Chan, a two-time Olympic silver medallist. "It was nice."

With Governor General Julie Payette and newly-minted minister of sport and persons with disabilities Kirsty Duncan looking on, the Canadian team bounced to the music alongside the performers.

"It was amazing," said women's hockey player Natalie Spooner, still clutching the yellow mask she was given for the ceremony. "The fact we got involved in the dancing was something we were super excited about.

'It's such a nice surprise'

"We were like, 'Wow this is a lot of fun already and it's just starting.'"

Competing at his third and final Olympics, Chan wasn't aware the event was taking place until the last minute.

"I had no idea this was happening," the former three-time world champion said with a grin. "I was hanging out in the apartment and the hockey girls were like, 'You need to come to this thing.'

"It's such a nice surprise."

Long-track speedskater Jordan Belchos, who is set to participate at his first Olympics, didn't know what to expect when the ceremony started.

"It was cool," he said. "It was a little bit cold, but it was actually really fun. I wasn't expecting it to be as interactive as that.

"Everyone's just really excited to be here. I'm personally trying to experience it a little bit, and at the same time calm down a little bit and get ready for my races ... I'm just trying to enjoy every day that I'm here."

Getting settled

Chan said the Canadian team, which is split between the coastal village in Gangneung and the mountain village in Pyeongchang, is starting to get settled with the opening ceremony set for Friday night.

"There's something different about this one," he said. "I feel so at home and comfortable. I turn left or right and know someone to catch up with."

Canada's team is comprised of 255 athletes and 87 coaches — the country's largest-ever delegation for a Winter Games — but with the competitors setting up camp in the two villages, a number of the athletes were missing from Wednesday's festivities in Gangneung.

But that didn't dampen the party.

"It's just so nice when everyone's having fun, smiling, dancing, jumping," said Chan. "We're here to compete, but we're also here to be together and have fun."