The Winter Olympics are upon us once again, replete with national pride, binge-watching, and pretending you too could fly off a ski jump and win a gold medal.
The XXIII Winter Games run from February 8–25 in PyeongChang, South Korea. The official motto of the 2018 Olympics is “Passion. Connected,” which The PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (POCOG) said it hoped would embody their “vision to expand winter sports participation to a truly global audience.”
“By hosting the 2018 Games we want to make a lasting effect on the youth and inspire the generations to come,” POCOG President CHO Yang-ho said.
Overall, 92 nations are participating in the Games, with nearly 3,000 athletes competing in 15 disciplines. New countries to the competition are Ecuador, Eritrea, Kosovo, Malaysia, Nigeria and Singapore.
New disciplines to the Winter Olympics are big air snowboarding, mass start speed skating, mixed doubles curling and mixed team alpine skiing.
Controversies abound, topped by the tensions between North and South Korea and by the Russian doping scandal. Several major countries (including the United States) threatened to pull out of competition unless their teams and delegates could be guaranteed safe.
Even the choice of Olympics mascot – a white tiger named Soohorang – was not without controversy. In Korean culture, white tigers are sacred and considered the Republic of Korea’s guardian animal. However, wildlife advocacy groups criticized the choice for popularizing an animal that has suffered from excessive inbreeding by exhibitors.
Despite controversies, the Winter Games are successfully underway. NBCOlympics.com will livestream the opening ceremony early Friday morning at 6 a.m. EST / 3 a.m. PST. A delayed TV broadcast with commentary by Katie Couric and Mike Tirico will air on NBC at 8 p.m. EST for primetime viewing Friday night.
Which winter sports should you be watching? To help you familiarize yourself, here are 14 of the most popular Olympics sports that you’ll be seeing at the 2018 Winter Games.
Both men’s and women’s teams compete in this category, which features alpine combined, the downhill, the giant slalom, the slalom, super combined and super-G events along with parallel mixed teams. What are the differences? Courses, course lengths and ski types.
This event combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting.
Teams of two or four pile into a bobsled and maneuver it down narrow, twisting, iced tracks.
Competitors rely only on their own locomotion to ski over snowy terrain.
Competitors slide stones on ice towards a target area to earn the most points.
Men, women and pairs compete in figure skating as well as ice dancing. The difference between ice dancing and pairs figure skating? Ice dancers cannot be lifted higher than shoulder height and cannot have throws or jumps in their programs.
Similar to snowboarding but with skis, freestylers attempt aerials, moguls, cross, half-pipe and slope-style performances.
Teams play hockey to score the most points.
One or two competitors lie flat on their backs upon a tiny sled to race down a track without brakes.
Competitors engage in a combo of cross-country skiing and ski jumping.
Men’s and women’s teams compete in different length speed skating runs to achieve the fastest times on long-track courses, short-track courses and marathon courses.
A competitor lies face down on a tiny, brake-free sled to race down a track.
Ski jumpers descend a steep ramp and “jump” off of it in an attempt to land the furthest distance away.
Competitors have a single ski-a broad board (snowboard) that’s attached to both feet. They snowboard downhill in a freestyle manner, or in a half-pipe, which is a ditch shaped in a semi-circle where snowboarders traverse it from side to side while performing tricks.