Watch: Winter Olympics kick off amid political tensions between North and South Korea

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Associated Press

The Pyeongchang Olympics have begun with a curling competition featuring a showdown between a pair of US siblings and a Russian husband-and-wife team competing in neutral uniforms with no national insignia.

Some athletes are already competing ahead of tonight's opening ceremony.
Source: 1 NEWS

The opening ceremony starts at 11.50pm (NZT), but the games are already underway.

Among the athletes are 168 Russians who are being forced to compete under the neutral banner of "Olympic Athletes from Russia" as punishment for doping in Sochi in 2014.

The freeskier says he 'certainly hopes' the Kiwis can pick up a medal at the games.
Source: 1 NEWS

Others who were barred altogether have filed appeals to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and are still hoping to be allowed to participate.

South Korea is wrestling how to balance international sanctions on North Korea with its desire to show the Olympic spirit as it welcomes hundreds of North Koreans for the Winter Games.

Spearheaded by the US, the international community has been imposing tougher sanctions designed to punish North Korea's economy in an effort to rein in its nuclear program.

But South Korea has been flexible with these rules as it accommodates the North Koreans to the Pyeongchang Games.

South Korea sent a chartered plane to bring North Korean skiers. It allowed North Korea to use a 9,700-ton ferry to transport more than 100 artists to perform at the Olympics and says it's considering whether to accept the North's request to supply fuel for the ship.

South Korea says the decisions were inevitable for the success of the games, which it sees as an opportunity to revive meaningful communication with the North after an extended period of animosity and diplomatic stalemate.

But critics say South Korea is playing into the hands of North Korea as it tries to use the Olympics to poke holes in sanctions.

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