With over 102 events in 15 different sports, the Winter Olympics of 2018, held in Pyeongchang, South Korea was no small feat. It is only the second Olympics ever to be hosted in South Korea, following the 1998 Seoul Games, and the first Winter Olympics to be held there, marking an enormous milestone for the country. The competition has certainly grown from its first incarnation as a small town festival in Chamonix, France, and this year’s Winter Olympics was no exception.
Elected after two unsuccessful bids to host the Winter Olympics, the city of Pyeongchang in Korea has been preparing since 2011. The Gangneung Olympic Park was constructed as a sports venue in the area to house several different sports, including hockey, curling, speed skating, and figure skating. This served as the main location to host the Olympics and was informally known as the Olympic Park. The opening ceremony kicked off as a celebration of peace, harmony, and international communication, all of which have resonated as themes for the Olympics since their creation. In an act of neutrality within the 2018 Parade of Nations, a staple of the Olympics that showcases each country that participates, North and South Korea both marched under a Korean unification flag, symbolizing their willingness to put the conflict aside in order to celebrate the Games. The broadcast of the opening ceremony was available in more than 500 countries all over the world. 92 teams in total qualified for the Winter Olympics this year, each at least allowing one athlete to participate.
As the games began, future athletes set numerous records and achieved stunning feats. For instance, Chloe Kim, a seventeen-year-old athlete for the American team, became the youngest person ever to win gold at a snowboarding event – in this case, the halfpipe – at the Winter Olympics. Ester Ledecká, a Czech athlete, became the third person, and the only woman in over ninety years to win gold medals in two different sports: alpine skiing and snowboarding. Furthermore, the US women’s ice hockey team won gold medals for the first time in over twenty years, after previously been bested in the Games by Canadian teams. Moreover, American athlete, Redmond Gerard, after a disappointing start, went on to become the youngest American man to win an Olympic gold since 1928, at only seventeen years old. He won the first gold for Team USA, which proceeded to win eight other gold medals out of twenty-three total medals. Norway led with the most medals won in total, with thirty-nine medals in total, with Germany following close behind with thirty-one medals in total.
Even with the Olympic message of peace, benevolence, and cooperation between countries, there was still much worry over the hostility between South and North Korea before the Games. Even so, as evidenced by the Parade of Nations, the countries managed to put their conflict aside in order to participate in the Games. The two nations, even though they competed separately, formed a unified women’s hockey team that played under the Korean unification flag. Over 35,000 people cheered as the flag was held between North Korean ice hockey athlete Hwang Chung-gum and South Korean bobsledder Won Yun-jong, symbolizing unity and peace in a time where hostility is prevalent.
This year’s Winter Olympics was rife with great, record defying moments, and a powerful political message that managed to transcend countries. Hopefully, the 2022 Beijing Games will bring something equally spectacular in tow!