In cold, poor South Korean mountains, Winter Olympics begin

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — The world starts watching now. At least, when it comes to sports.

After two failed bids, billions of dollars in preparation and a national debate about whether it’s all worth it, the Winter Olympics are about to open in Pyeongchang. The beginning will be a gala ceremony showcasing South Korea’s rise from poverty and war into one of Asia’s most modern nations.

The isolated mountain town of Pyeongchang will be a global player for two weeks of winter sports and spectacle.

But athletics have been overshadowed in the buildup by a frenzied, increasingly momentous spray of political developments.

The rival Koreas, flirting with war just weeks ago, are suddenly making overtures toward cooperation. And the Olympics could be the place where the next step plays out.