The City of Auburn Goes to the Olympics
A delegation from the City of Auburn, Washington will touch down in South Korea this week to attend the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics. They come at the invitation of host city PyeongChang, who counts Auburn as its only American sister city.
Seven delegates, including Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus and others involved with the sister city program, will join delegations from PyeongChang’s sister cities in Japan, China, and Mongolia for the opening ceremony.
The cities of Auburn and PyeongChang entered into talks to become sister cities nearly a decade ago. The relationship was finalized in 2011, the same year the South Korean county won its bid to host the 2018 Winter Games. Sister city officials cited the budding relationship between Auburn and PyeongChang as a key factor in the country’s successful bid.
The delegation will land in the South Korean capital of Seoul on Thursday afternoon, where they will board a high-speed train and take it east along a brand-new rail line to the rural county of PyeongChang, nestled in the Taebaek mountain range.
Before the opening ceremony begins, the delegates will visit the annual Snow Festival in Daegwallyeong, a small “myeon,” or township, where the Olympic Stadium is located. They will also attend a welcome dinner hosted by PyeongChang.
The delegates will then gather at the stadium to watch as the American Olympic team joins the Parade of Nations at the opening ceremony. The South Korean team will march together with North Korean athletes under a single flag, a testament to the ceremony’s theme of peace. The ceremony will connect aspects of Korean history to its current culture, likely featuring performances of K-pop, according to a Reuters report.U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will also be attending the opening ceremony and other Olympics events with the second lady, Karen Pence, who also serves as Honorary Vice Chairwoman of Sister Cities International.
The morning after the ceremony, the delegates from Auburn will take in a freestyle skiing event, along with another winter festival, this one a celebration of trout. They fly out of Seoul on Sunday.
Auburn Sister Cities hopes to expand its partnership with PyeongChang after the Olympics are over. Economic development authorities in the Washington city are currently exploring a deal between a local import/export business and potential client businesses in PyeongChang.
They also plan to pursue sister school relationships, student exchanges, and an administrative exchange.
But for now, the delegates from Auburn are simply hoping to support their sister city in its unparalleled opportunity to host the biggest sporting event in the world.
"That's history in the making,” Mayor Backus told the local NBC affiliate. “And to know that I was there, to know that we'll have a delegation from Auburn that will be there. I'm very, very proud.”