Perhaps the most stirring moment of the evening came when the penultimate torch bearers were revealed as Chung Su-hyon, a North Korean player for the unified Korean hockey team, and Park Jong-ah, a South Korean player. The pair carried the torch up the final flight of steps and handed it off to Yuna Kim, the profoundly popular South Korean figure skater who won the gold medal in 2010 and the silver in 2014.
This event was not the first time that athletes from North and South Korea have marched together under one flag. They did so in 2000 at the Sydney Olympics in Australia, in 2004 in Athens, and in 2006 in Torino, Italy.
But by doing so in South Korea — and in Gangwon Province, where North Korea is visible from the peaks of the ski slopes — the symbolism this time was particularly striking. It also provided a stark contrast to the 1988 Summer Olympic Games in Seoul, where the North Koreans did not compete after organizing a terrorist attack in which spies blew up a South Korean airliner 10 months before the Games, killing everyone on board.
The Seoul Olympics ended up being a turning point for South Korea as it pulled away from North Korea economically, politically and culturally.
It was also, as it turned out, a turning point for the world. After two previous summer games roiled by political boycotts in Moscow and Los Angeles, the countries that had sat out those games all sent athletes to Seoul, making it the host of the largest number of participating nations during the Cold War era.
A year later, the Berlin Wall fell. The Soviet Union collapsed not long after that.
“In a sense, the Cold War symbolically ended with the Seoul Olympics,” said Lee O. Young, creative director of the 1988 opening ceremony, in an interview in his library in Seoul this week.
Mr. Lee, whose slogan for those ceremonies was “beyond the wall,” said that he believed in the power of imagination to drive change.
“The Pyeongchang Olympics, in very surprising ways, could be another turning point in the way the Seoul Olympics was,” Mr. Lee said. “After the Seoul Olympics, we have been experiencing a new Cold War, and the Pyeongchang Olympics might set another milestone.”