For the next two weeks, the world’s premier winter sports athletes will compete for gold and glory at the Olympic Games.
Rejoice, sports fans: the XXIII Olympic Winter Games are finally here. U-S-A! U-S-A!
The Olympics always carry an air of importance, but the Pyeongchang Games carry a special kind of weight. This marks the second time the Korean Peninsula has played host after Seoul hosted in the summer of 1988. When the unified Korean women’s hockey team takes to the ice, it will also mark the first time that North and South have ever competed under the same flag. Political grandstanding and shallow gestures of goodwill have always been Olympic mainstays, but something profound is taking place underneath the surface in 2018. When “Arirang” (the 600-year-old folk song and unofficial national anthem of Korea) was sung at the Opening Ceremony, the audience could not help but understand the deep yearning for peace among the Korean people. It certainly moved this reporter to tears and served as an awe-inspiring reminder of why the Olympics exists in the first place: to foster positive relationships in society through the bonds of sport.
With the stage set beautifully on Friday, Americans can now tune in to NBC to watch all 244 U.S. athletes compete for gold and glory in 15 sports until the closing ceremony in two weeks’ time. “But Zane, that’s, like, a lot of sports. Can you give me some highlights so I can skip the boring bits?” First of all, there’s no such thing as a boring winter sport. But it’s true that most people do not have time to watch every second of the action. Here are some important names to watch and events to catch.
Snowboarder Shaun White is seeking redemption to reclaim his throne atop the world of snowboarding after a disappointing 2014 performance, while 17-year-old Chloe Kim is also looking to make her mark on the sport. The iconic Lindsey Vonn is competing in her fourth Olympics after missing Sochi altogether due to injury. She’ll be representing the USA in alpine skiing, a sport she has dominated for almost 20 years. The U.S. men’s hockey team will be competing without a single NHL player on the roster, as league Commissioner Gary Bettman refused to split up the league’s regular season schedule to accommodate the Games (insert boos and hisses). However, as it is hockey, it will still be very exciting. Adam Rippon is the first openly gay American athlete to qualify for a Winter Olympics; he will be competing in men’s figure skating. Watching the very strange sport of biathlon (in which competitors ski cross country and then shoot rifles) is always oddly satisfying and highly recommended. The world will see Nigeria’s first ever winter Olympic team compete in women’s bobsledding. No one will see Russia compete in anything, since they have been banned from these Olympics for running a state-sponsored athlete doping scheme, though clean athletes from the country will still appear at the games under the Olympic flag. And of course, curling remains a thing.
The 2018 Winter Olympics run from now until February 25.