McFlurries for breakfast for North Korean Olympians

A McDonald's outlet in the Gangneung Olympic Village in Gangneung, on Feb 8, 2018.
A McDonald's outlet in the Gangneung Olympic Village in Gangneung, on Feb 8, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

GANGNEUNG (South Korea) (AFP) - North Korea's women hockey players are not averse to enjoying a McDonald's fast-food breakfast, according to their South Korean teammates.

The North Koreans are part of a unified Korean team playing at the Winter Olympic Games and are staying in the Athletes Village.

"Two days ago, I saw the North Koreans in line at McDonald's (in the Athletes Village dining hall) and I was also in line at McDonald's," said Randi Griffin, one of the unified Korean team players.

"They were getting Oreo McFlurries for breakfast and so we all laughed about that and had McFlurries together," chuckled Griffin, an American of Korean heritage drafted in to bolster the Korean side.

The team was hastily assembled after a landmark deal between the two Koreas, forcing the South's team to add a dozen North Koreans only two weeks ahead of the Olympics.

It was a surprise for the South Korean players, but one that was quickly accepted after they met their new teammates.

"As a player, it is true that I was taken aback at first," said the South's goalie Shin So Jung at a press conference Wednesday.

"But we bonded over sports and now we don't feel the difference between the North and South."

The unified team has had little success on the ice, shipping 28 goals and scoring only twice in five defeats. But they were a crowd favourite and hailed as a potent symbol of the "Peace Olympics" in Pyeongchang.

Each game was met with a packed stadium and the arena rose as one at the final buzzer at the team's last game, as the players from the North and South weeped and hugged each other.

The addition of North Korean players initially provoked a backlash in the South, with accusations that Seoul was depriving some of its own players of the chance to compete at a home Olympics for political purposes.

But the sight of North and South Korean skaters on the ice together has touched many spectators, with an IOC official even suggesting that the Korean team be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

International Ice Hockey Federation chief Rene Fasel has expressed hopes for a unified Korean team at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, referring to them as the bearers of "the message of peace".

And the players agree that the Olympics and their time with the North Koreans have been a life-changing experience for them.

"It's definitely bigger than hockey for us," said Marissa Brandt. "I think coming together and showing the world that we can be unified through sport, hopefully that's a small step for something bigger."