On Friday, the 2018 Winter Olympics will begin and last through Sunday, Feb. 25. The events will be held in PyeongChang, South Korea, its first Winter Olympic Games.
With over 90 countries participating in over 100 sporting events, and six new nations making their Winter Olympics debut, the PyeongChang Olympics will be one of the biggest Winter Olympics in history surpassing 100 medal events. Some of the various winter sports in which athletes will be competing include the following: alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, figure skating, speed skating, ice hockey, ski jumping, snowboarding and luge.
While the PyeongChang Olympics will be one of the biggest Winter Olympics in history, this notoriety has been met with some controversy. One of the first setbacks occurred after the International Olympic Committee banned Russia from participating in the events after the discovery of “systemic manipulation” of anti-doping rules in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Russian athletes may still compete if they qualified and complied with doping regulations.
As of Jan. 25, 169 Russian athletes will appear under a neutral flag and with the title of “Olympic Athletes from Russia.” Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, had originally stated that it would be an embarrassment for Russia if athletes were not allowed to compete under the Russian flag but later said that athletes cleared to participate would not be prevented from competing.
Also, since the announcement in 2011 of South Korea as host of the 2018 Winter Olympics, concerns for safety have been raised in regards to the close proximity to North Korea. These concerns have escalated in light of the recent testing of nuclear weapons. In September 2017, France, Austria and then Germany considered skipping the games if the security of their athletes and citizens could not be guaranteed. The U.S. also showed concerns about competing, but these concerns were later dismissed by White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders who said that the United States is looking forward to participating.
Despite the safety concerns surrounding North Korea, both North and South Korea will be marching together under a Korean unification flag, as well as debuting a unified women’s ice hockey team. This unification follows a tumultuous relationship between the two countries
and has been met with uneasiness from many South Koreans, but according to Milligan student and South Korean native Somang Lee, “I think the unification shows at least a sign of willingness to come together and the fact that they are coming together in an international arena is definitely a step forward.”
If North Korea and South Korea will remain in good graces is still unknown, but the unification has proven to be a diplomatic breakthrough for the time being.
In addition to the Winter Olympics, the Winter Paralympics will occur from March 9-18, 2018.