On Friday, February 9, 2018, the 2018 Winter Olympics will officially begin with a three-hour opening ceremony in predicted -10 Celsius weather, starting the world on an impressive 16 days of action.
The games will begin with some events on Wednesday, February 7, including curling. Some preliminary rounds of figure skating and some luge events will follow on February 8. Confused about some sports or want a comprehensive recap of all the incredible news you missed up to the start of the games? Get caught up on all the latest Olympic news and sports with this catch-all primer!
South Korea, Mike Pence, and Norovirus: All the Olympic News You Missed Leading up to the Games
Catch up on all the news not directly related to sports coming from Pyongchang! The most recent story comes from the security staff hired to protect athletes at the Olympics– many of whom are now in quarantine after showing symptoms of the vomiting and stomach illness norovirus. Although only 86 security guards are confirmed to have the illness, an estimated 1,200 have displayed at least one sign of having the disease and are currently in quarantine to keep the athletes safe. 900 military personnel will temporarily fill in for the 1,200 guards affected by the gastric bug.
According to the executive director of the International Olympic Committee, Christophe Dubi, they are taking all possible steps to keep the athletes and spectators safe from the bug, which infected 30 athletes at the 2017 International Association of Athletic Federation’s World Championships.
Want to know why this Olympics have been whispered about by some as the “Olympics of Peace?” A large part of that nickname has to do with the recent travel of a North Korean delegation of athletes, cheerleaders, and high-ranking officials, including the notable sister of North Korea’s supreme leader Kim Jong Un, to neighboring South Korea for the Winter Olympics. Although many in South Korea see this as a step toward positive negotiations in the region that is split in half and has been for the past seven decades, some Americans took the news with hesitation.
U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham said in a statement back in January when the story first broke that he doubted the United States would attend the Olympics if North Korea could participate. The U.S. will compete this month in Pyongchang, however, with Vice President Mike Pence in attendance as part of the American delegation. Many of Pence’s aides in the White House see this as an opportunity for negotiation, although Pence’s invitation of Otto Warmbier, father of a United States college student that died under mysterious circumstances in North Korea, may make any talks that much more difficult.
You may notice a conspicuous lack of red, white and blue at this Olympic Games. The American delegation of athletes will be attending in full force, but the Russian team has fewer athletes this year, stemming from a December ruling to effectively ban the nation from the games. This unprecedented decision comes after the 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, when Russian officials were found to be interfering with the IOC’s drug testing efforts. Athletes without any drug charges will be allowed to compete, but if they take home a medal and make it to the podium, the Russian flag will not fly, the Russian anthem will not play, and instead of “Russian athletes,” they will be called “athletes from Russia.”
Luge, Skeleton, and Biathlon, Oh My: Your Guide to Olympic Sports (That Aren’t Figure Skating)
Chances are, if you’re an average American, you will have heard of hockey, snowboarding, or most famously, figure skating. But what about luge, curling, or biathlon? Here are some of the more obscure winter sports, explained, so that you can sound like an expert at your next dinner with family or Olympic watch party with friends.
Bobsleigh, if you are unfamiliar with the 1993 Disney movie “Cool Runnings,” is a sport in which individuals or teams of up to four speed around an icy track, sometimes parallel to the ground, in fiberglass sleighs in an attempt to have the lowest time. If you want to watch bobsleigh, the competition will take place from the 18-25 of February, making it one of the last events of the games. Some teams to watch are Jamaica’s first female bobsled team, the German men’s squads, which are set to perform well, and the Canadian women’s team, who are projected to take home the gold in their event.
Skeleton, another sledding event, is an individual event where sledders turn around corners, sometimes at upwards of 100 kilometers per hour, and brake and turn using only their body weight. Men’s and women’s skeleton, which will be from the 15-17 of February, is composed of four timed runs. The athlete with the lowest overall time takes home the gold. For the men’s event, Markus Dukurs of Latvia is projected to win the gold. For the women, Jacqueline Lölling of Germany looks to take the first gold in Skeleton for her country.
Luge, the last sledding event at the Winter Olympics, is a single, double, or relay sledding event where members sled feet-first on the same track as bobsleigh and skeleton. Germany looks to continue their domination of the sledding events, with German teams projected to win the men’s single and double luge, women’s single luge, and the mixed relay.
Biathlon, another neglected Olympic sport, combines rifle shooting and cross-country skiing. The only winter Olympic sport in which the United States has never won a medal, biathlon, has four individual distances and a relay, all of which have been traditionally dominated by Slovakia, Germany, France, and Norway, who are all medal contenders for the 2018 Olympic Games.
Is there a sport that you are excited about or a news story that piqued your interest, or a sport that you would like to learn more about? Let us know in the comments section below!