The greatest show on earth had an amazing comeback on Sunday, when North Korea presented for the first time in five years its propaganda screen that sang and danced, the "World Games".
Months in preparation, the show featured tens of thousands of artists under the curved arches of May Day Stadium, depicting scenes from Korean history and modern life in a unique and changing context.
It was made up of 17,490 children who turned the colorful pages of books in sequence to create giant images that rippled on the side of the stadium, an analog version, on a giant scale, of a generally digital solution.
They interpreted scenes of floral landscapes to portraits of the last leaders Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, interspersed with slogans that include "We can win if we defend socialism" and "Our country is the strongest thanks to the Marshal": a reference to Kim Jong A, the third generation of his family to govern the country.
The crowd, the stadium with capacity for 150,000 people, burst into applause when Kim entered the premiere of the new World Games, entitled "The Glorious Country" and part of the celebrations for the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Democratic Organization. The People's Republic of Korea, as the North is officially known.
In the covered field, the dancers turned, the acrobats jumped and the bands played in a sequence of acts that included "Our socialist homeland" and "We have the best party".
The performers are mostly school children and students, but range from children's gymnasts to a 69-year-old kayagum player, a traditional Korean string instrument, accompanied by another 1,200 people.
Many scenes had more than 1000 people on stage, and Guinness World Records lists a 2007 performance of the previous version of the World Games, known as Arirang, as the largest gymnastics exhibition in the world, with 100,090 participants.
"There's nothing like that, nobody else can do it," said Simon Cockerell, general manager of Koryo Tours, the leader of the western tourism market to the north, which has seen several massive games.
"The children in the background work very hard and it is really difficult for them, but they also try and qualify for these positions so that not everyone will enter," he said. "Aesthetically, it looks fantastic."
In keeping with the North's efforts with nuclear weapons to minimize the militaristic elements of the celebrations – it did not put the ICBM on display at a military parade the previous Sunday – the issues focused on development and prosperity, and even a section on Korean War does not refer to the United States.
At one point in an act on the reunification of the peninsula, which has been divided by the demilitarized zone since the conflict ended in 1953, images of Kim's summit in April were reproduced with President Moon Jae-in of the South, which caused the unusual vision of tens of thousands of North Koreans who applaud the images of the leader of Seoul.
The practices ran for months before the show, with the sound of the rehearsals echoing throughout the city in the last few nights.
The required commitment of the participants is enormous. Former interpreters said they trained from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day for several months before the presentations, stopping their school or university studies.
Undoubtedly, there is an economic cost to dedicate so many resources to an artistic show, but Cockerell said: "There is prestige in acting at the Games of the Mass.
"Everyone I know who has participated in a Mass Games is really proud to have participated in it."
For many, acting in front of the country's leader is a highlight of the experience.
But Kim Jong Sun, 33, was lost. Now a factory worker in a silk factory in Pyongyang, she was a drummer at the 2008 World Games, but then-leader Kim Jong Il was unable to attend any of the shows.
"It was the greatest dream of my life to act in front of the Great Leader," Kim told AFP.
"But I did not have the opportunity," he added. "I even cried at that moment."