Shortly after the end of World War I, the first Winter Olympics were hosted in the French Alps in 1924. Following the same tradition of international camaraderie and diplomacy, in Pyeong Chang, South Korea, the 2018 Winter Olympics opening ceremony will commence on February 9th, with the globally televised competitions ending on February 25th.
This year’s games include competitions in alpine skiing, biathlon, luge, ice hockey, bobsleigh, figure skating, Nordic combined, curling, cross-country skiing, freestyle skiing, skeleton, short track speed skating, long track speed skating, ski jump, and snowboarding. The 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, featured in Pyeong Chang from March 9th -18th, will include alpine and cross-country skiing, biathlon, wheelchair curling, ice hockey, and snowboarding.
One Olympic tradition, enacted for the 1968 Summer Games in France, is the Olympic mascot. Each new Olympic mascot is designed to represent aspects of the sports themselves or a culturally significant aspect of the host city. This year’s mascot, Soohorang, is a white tiger – representing strength, trust, and protection in Korean folklore. The 2018 Paralympics mascot Bandabi, the Asiatic bear, represents strong will and courage, as well as a species that plays an important role in Korean creation mythology. Both symbols of moral values and humane deeds, the mascots coincidentally serve as a welcome omen of the developing brotherhood between the divided North and South Korea.
One point of interest in this pre-Olympic buildup is the peaceful relations between North and South Korea regarding North Korea’s participation in the games. Considering United Nations and South Korean sanctions, leaders from both nations met last week for neutral conversation regarding plans for attending the upcoming events. While North Korea’s history of nuclear threats is deemed “off the table” for discussion, the preparations for the inclusion of a North Korean team of athletes marks a small step in diplomatic communications and unity between the two nations.
Pyeong Chang will bear witness not only to changes in international relations, but also historically significant developments for American viewers. The U.S. team’s Maame Biney, Erin Jackson, and Jordan Greenway all make their marks on history this year as the first black athletes to represent the U.S. in women’s short track speed skating, women’s long track speed skating, and men’s hockey, respectively. As another first, rookie figure skater Adam Rippon is the first openly gay man to qualify for the U.S. Winter Olympic team.
Once the Olympic torch leaves Korean borders, it will reach nearby Tokyo, Japan for the upcoming 2020 Summer Games, and in 2022 the Winter Olympics will shine on Beijing, China, former host to the 2008 Summer Games where swimmer Michael Phelps famously won eight gold medals, marking his place as the winningest athlete in Olympic history.
That same drive is present in members of team U.S.A entering the arena at Pyeong Chang this February. From veteran champions Lindsey Vonn and Nathan Chen to notable newcomers Adam Rippon and Maame Biney, the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Pyeong Chang will be a sporting event the world won’t want to miss.