Let’s face it, the winter olympics are very different from the summer games, and some of the sports are lesser known and may be a bit more confusing. As part of our preparation for the PyeongChang Olympics, we’ve gathered a few topics and questions we had and you may have.
What do we need to know about the host, PyeongChang?
PyeongChang, South Korea was selected as host of the 2018 Olympics in 2011, beating Munich, Germany and Annecy, France, by winning 63 of the 95 possible votes. It was the third time South Korea bid for the Olympics, losing to Vancouver and Sochi for the 2010 and 2014 Olympics.
It is the site of the first ski resort in South Korea. The YongPyong Resort was established in 1974 and was named “Best Ski Resort” by the World Ski Awards in 2013 and 2014.
Unlike Sochi four years ago, you don’t have to worry about a lack of snow and warm temperatures. PyeongChang is located half a mile above sea level in the mountains, with temperatures below zero Celsius for nearly a third of the year (110 days) and in February it can get as cold as single digits (in Fahrenheit) with the wind chill.
Why are North and South Korea marching under the same flag and building a joint women’s hockey team?
Just this week, and a few weeks before the Olympics begin, North and South Korea announced they will march under the same flag at the opening ceremony. It’s considered a diplomatic breakthrough for the two countries.
They’ve also agreed to form a single women’s hockey team with players from both sides, have a range of activities between for people from both the North and the South, and skiers will train together ahead of the games.
The move still has to be approved by the International Olympic Committee, but it wouldn’t be the first time they will march under the same flag. They marched together during the 2006 Winter Games in Italy and the 1991 Table Tennis Championships (the first time they did so).
Their announcement received mixed reactions, but after all, aren’t the Olympics about bringing countries together?
How many events are there?
The Olympics will feature 102 events – a third less than the summer Olympics which feature 300 events – in the following 15 different sports:
Ice hockey, Ski jumping, Freestyle skiing, Alpine skiing, Biathlon, Speed skating, Short track speed skating, Bobsleigh, Figure skating, Nordic combined, Snowboard, Curling, Cross country skiing, Luge and Skeleton.
What’s the difference between skeleton and luge?
The two sports involve racing down an ice-slide at insane speeds, but there are some distinct differences.
Luge: The racer begins with the racer already lying on his or her back on a flat sled, with his or her feet first. They then pull themselves forward in order to start the race. They use their bodies to angle and steer the sled down the ice course, at times going as fast as 90 miles an hour. For the most part, luge is an individual sport, but there is also a men’s doubles event, and mixed doubles and relay events.
Skeleton: Skeleton racers begin the race on their feet, running about 40 meters before jumping on the sled, face-first and just inches from the ice track. Like luge, skeleton racers use their bodies to angle themselves and navigate the course, also reaching speeds of 90 miles an hour. There are only singles events for the men and women.
What is the Biathlon?
The biathlon combines two very, very different sports: rifle shooting and cross-country skiing. Athletes ski for a distance (between seven to 20 kilometers depending on the event) then stop to shoot using .22 calibre rifles. At every stop, each athlete has five bullets for five targets to hit.
The sport was developed in Norway as an exercise for soldiers.
What are the rules of curling?
Curling is always one of the more entertaining sports in the winter Olympics. According to a recent piece by Voice of America, curling is the world’s fastest-growing winter sport. It is mostly associated with Scotland and Canada, but has even spread to Middle Eastern countries where temperatures are warm year round.
So what exactly is curling and how do you play? We think the following video will do a better job explaining than we can (thanks Curling Canada!):
For more on athletes to watch, check out our list of five athletes who could win big these Olympics.