The 23rd Winter Olympic Games touched off last week on Feb. 7 with competitions in curling and ski jumping. This year, the games are hosted in Pyeongchang, South Korea, which last hosted the Olympics in the summer of 1988.
South Korea has had to overcome several financial difficulties early on as slow ticket sales left it short of an estimated $2.4 billion budget needed to host the games. However, ticket sales were expected to spike closer to the games, easing the strain of construction delays and other operational conflicts.
Overall, the games are estimated to cost around $10 billion, markedly less than the cost of the previous Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, which were reported to be the highest in history at over $50 billion.
Ticket sales may have been affected by the outbreak of several strains of influenza throughout the Korean Peninsula in the months leading up to the games. Korea has also been facing a potentially deadly seasonal flu as well as reports of a highly contagious bird flu. Despite this, no health warnings or travel restrictions have been issued by officials.
Several new events were added to the games this year by the International Olympic Committee for 2018 including big air snowboarding, freestyle skiing, mass start speed skating, and mixed doubles curling. In total, athletes will compete in seven different sports including biathlon, bobsleigh, curling, ice hockey, luge, skating and skiing. Of these seven sports there will be 15 events and 102 medals awarded —a record high.
Competing in these events are over 2,000 athletes from 92 different countries, six of which are new to the Olympics. For the first time the countries of Ecuador, Eritrea, Kosovo, Malaysia, Nigeria and Singapore will be represented in the games.
North Korea also announced on Jan. 20th that they would be competing in the games, sending 22 athletes to participate in three sports. Russian athletes will also be competing despite being banned earlier in the year for breaking anti-doping rules. However, athletes able to prove they are clean will be allowed to compete.
According to CNN, a data company called Gracenote is predicting Germany will take home the most medals followed closely by Norway and the U.S.
Team U.S.A. has brought 242 athletes to Pyeongchang, more than any other country has ever brought to the Winter Olympics. Of the 242 athletes, 108 are women, which is the highest number of women on any U.S. Winter Olympics team. Pyeongchang has boosted women’s participation in the Winter Games specifically by removing restrictions on women’s participation in events like the biathlon, curling and ice skating.
The current U.S.A. team has also been said to be the most diverse of any previous U.S.A. winter team, bringing 10 African Americans, 11 Asian Americans and the first two openly gay athletes on a winter team.
Although competitions began on Feb. 7, opening ceremonies for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games were held on Feb. 9 in the Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium, built just for the event and capable of holding 35,000 spectators.
Yuna Kim, a popular South Korean figure skater sometimes referred to as “Queen Yuna,” was selected for the high honor of lighting the Olympic Cauldron. Kim earned a gold medal in the 2010 Olympics and a silver medal in the 2014 Winter Olympics. She was passed the torch by two members of the joined North and South Korean women’s hockey team, Chung Su-Hyon and Park Yong-ah.
Also notable was the integrated North and South Korean team of athletes who marched out together, carrying with them the unification flag. Although this appeared as a hopeful sign to some, according to the New York Times, the attitude towards a unified Korea has shifted within the last several years, especially with the younger Korean generation. Many South Koreans in their 20s feel that reunification would be a burden when there are more pressing domestic issues such as unemployment.
Grace Wallin is a sophomore English and Spanish major from Sioux Falls, S.D.
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