SAPPORO, Japan (AP) — The Asian Winter Games officially got underway on Sunday with an opening ceremony that united winter athletes from the world's most populous continent.

Among the dignitaries present at Sapporo Dome were Crown Prince Naruhito, IOC vice president John Coates and Olympic Council of Asia President Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah.

With the Winter Olympics just a year and a short distance away, the continent's leading winter athletes will use the games to fine tune for Pyeongchang 2018.

The games run through Feb. 26 and feature more than 2,000 athletes from 31 countries competing in five sports, 11 disciplines and 64 events.

The Japanese government allowed North Korean athletes and officials to enter the country to take part in the Games despite Japan's entry ban on North Korean citizens.