PyeongChang Winter Olympics

February 12, 2018

PyeongChang, South Korea

Governors general have been celebrating and encouraging excellence since at least 1873, when Lord Dufferin—Canada’s 3rd governor general—created the Governor General’s Academic Medals to recognize academic achievement by Canadian students.

One hundred and forty-five years later, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette continued the viceregal tradition of celebrating and encouraging excellence at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, where Canadian athletes competed with—and often defeated—the world’s best.

On departing South Korea after a short but packed program in which she met with and cheered on Canadian curlers, snowboarders, skiers and ski jumpers, speed skaters, ice dancers, lugers and hockey players, the Governor General tweeted: “These few days in PyeongChang went by too fast.”

Fast, but not nearly as fast as Canada’s luge team, the members of which Her Excellency cheered on and tweeted about as they reached speeds of more than 100 km/h.

The Governor General witnessed the arrival of a new generation of Canadian Olympic heroes, including short track speed skater Kim Boutin, who won bronze in her Olympic debut.

And she was there as history was made by Canadian Olympians.

“The Olympics are the pinnacle of sport—just being here is an extraordinary achievement,” the Governor General said to a packed house of athletes, coaches, supporters and volunteers at the official opening of Canada Olympic House on February 7.

“Each athlete is special; each has dared to dream. It takes determination, discipline and passion. They’ve worked very hard to be here and they’ve sacrificed so much.”

It was therefore an emotional moment for all when Team Canada entered the Olympic Stadium at the Opening Ceremony, led by flag bearing ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. Thanks to special light boxes installed behind each of the 35 000 seats, the stadium was brilliantly lit with the red of the maple leaf upon the Canadians’ arrival.

Of course, the Olympic Games are about more than sport, and this year was no different. Notably, North and South Korean athletes entered the stadium at the Opening Ceremony under a flag representing a united Korea. The joint entry and participation of athletes from the North and the South led to these Olympics being dubbed the “Peace Games.”

“The flag they carried symbolized peace and a desire for unity,” the GG said. “It was a symbol of the world we want. A world where we all work—and play—together.”

Prior to the opening of the Games, Her Excellency was warmly welcomed by and met with South Korean President Moon Jae at the Blue House in Seoul for a discussion on Canada-Korea relations. At the meeting, the Governor General gave President Moon a poignant gift: a photo of the Korean Peninsula taken from the International Space Station, where she served as a mission specialist.