Wait almost over as PyeongChang set for opening ceremony

February 8, 2018

By Yoo Jee-ho

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea, Feb. 9 (Yonhap) — The wait is almost over.

PyeongChang, once a bucolic alpine resort town on the eastern part of the country, will host the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. With a vision of transforming itself into an Asian winter sports hub, PyeongChang won its Winter Olympics bid on its third try in 2011, beating out Germany’s Munich and France’s Annecy in an International Olympic Committee (IOC) vote.

The world will turn its eyes to the PyeongChang Olympic Stadium Friday evening, when the temperature could hover around minus-10 degrees Celsius including wind chill in what could be the coldest Winter Games opening ceremony in decades.

An athlete takes a photo of the Olympic Rings at Gangneung Olympic Village in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, on Feb. 6, 2018. (Yonhap)An athlete takes a photo of the Olympic Rings at Gangneung Olympic Village in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, on Feb. 6, 2018. (Yonhap)

PyeongChang 2018, scheduled to run through Feb. 25, will be the first Olympics in South Korea since the 1988 Seoul Summer Games.

With PyeongChang, the main host city, staging snow, skiing and sliding events, the neighboring cities of Gangneung and Jeongseon will host ice and alpine skiing events, respectively.

A dozen venues will stage seven sports across 15 disciplines, with a Winter Games record of 102 gold medals at stake.

PyeongChang 2018 is also the largest Winter Olympics ever in terms of participation — 2,920 athletes from 92 nations have registered to participate.

South Korea is sending its largest Winter Olympics delegation and will have 144 athletes on hand. The host nation has set out to collect up to eight gold medals and 20 medals overall, hoping those totals will be good enough to place it among the top four.

All 26 Winter Olympic gold medals won by South Korea so far have come from ice events — short track, speed skating and figure skating. South Korea is once again expected to earn most of its medals from the ice, but it is also eyeing potentially historic performances in skeleton and bobsleigh.

At the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, South Korea grabbed three gold, three silver and two bronze medals to rank 13th.

South Korea’s best Winter Games performance came at Vancouver 2010, where it won six gold medals and hauled in a record 14 medals total to finish fifth.

There will be even more historic moments during the opening ceremony. For only the fourth time in the Olympic history and the first time at an Olympic Games held in this country, South and North Korea will march into the main stadium as one. The will walk in behind the Korean Unification Flag — a blue Korean Peninsula against a white background — and the athletes and officials will don white parkas with the image of the same flag on their chest.

Sarah Murray, head coach of the joint Korean women's hockey team, draws up a play on the board during practice at Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, on Feb. 7, 2018. (Yonhap)Sarah Murray, head coach of the joint Korean women’s hockey team, draws up a play on the board during practice at Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, on Feb. 7, 2018. (Yonhap)

North Korea is participating in an Olympic Games held in South Korea for the first time, and will have its largest Winter Games team with 22 athletes.

In another unprecedented development, the Koreas agreed to form a joint women’s hockey team for the Olympics. It’s the first unified Korean team at any Olympic Games. The 23 South Koreans and 12 North Koreans will walk in together at the opening ceremony. Head coach Sarah Murray, South Korea’s bench boss since 2014, said earlier in the week that it was important for her players to be at the ceremony and show that they’re unified.

Korea will play its first game against Switzerland on Saturday.

Some preliminary competitions have already begun. Mixed doubles curling, making its Olympic debut, is into Day 2 on Friday, with freestyle skiing, ski jumping and the figure skating team event also under way.

The first gold medal at PyeongChang 2018 will come from women’s cross-country skiing Saturday. The 7.5-kilometer+7.5-kilometer skiathlon will start at 4:15 p.m. at Alpensia Cross-Country Centre in PyeongChang.

The host nation’s first medal could also come Saturday in short track speed skating. The final of the men’s 1,500 meters is set to begin at 9:28 p.m. at Gangneung Ice Arena, and local fans will be hoping to see one of their own on the podium before the night is over.

Hwang Dae-heon, an 18-year-old sensation, beat out former Olympic veterans at the notoriously difficult national Olympic trials and went on to claim two gold and two silver medals in the 1,500m during the International Skating Union (ISU) World Cup season.

Members of the South Korean short track speed skating team pose for photos during the Team Korea welcome ceremony at Gangneung Olympic Village in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, on Feb. 7, 2018. (Yonhap)Members of the South Korean short track speed skating team pose for photos during the Team Korea welcome ceremony at Gangneung Olympic Village in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, on Feb. 7, 2018. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr

One Comment

  1. firdauz

    February 9, 2018 at 11:46 PM

    I am really waiting for the 2018 Asian Winter Olympics

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