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2018 Winter Olympics
2018 Winter Olympics

The 2018 Winter Olympics, officially known as the XXIII Olympic Winter Games (French: Les XXIIIes Jeux olympiques d'hiver;[1] Korean: 제23회 동계 올림픽, romanizedJeisipsamhoe Donggye Ollimpik) and commonly known as PyeongChang 2018, was an international winter multi-sport event that was held between 9 and 25 February 2018 in Pyeongchang County, Gangwon Province, South Korea, with the opening rounds for certain events held on 8 February 2018, the day before the opening ceremony.

Pyeongchang was elected as the host city in July 2011, at the 123rd IOC Session in Durban, South Africa. This was the second time that South Korea had hosted the Olympic Games, having previously hosted the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, but it was only the first Winter Olympics to be held in the country. It was the first of three consecutive Olympics to be held in East Asia, the following two being Tokyo 2020 (summer) and Beijing 2022 (winter). It was the third time that an East Asian country had hosted the Winter Games, after Sapporo (1972) and Nagano (1998), both of these cities in Japan. It was also the first Winter Olympics to be held in mainland Asia.

The Games featured 102 events over 15 disciplines, a record number of events for the Winter Games. Four events made their Olympic debut in 2018: "big air" snowboarding, mass start speed skating, mixed doubles curling, and mixed team alpine skiing. A total of 2,914 athletes from 92 NOCs competed, including the national debuts of Ecuador, Eritrea, Kosovo, Malaysia, Nigeria and Singapore.

After a state-sponsored doping program was exposed following the 2014 Winter Olympics, the Russian Olympic Committee was suspended, but selected athletes were allowed to compete neutrally under the special IOC designation of "Olympic Athletes from Russia" (OAR). North Korea agreed to participate in the Games despite tense relations with South Korea; the two nations paraded together at the opening ceremony as a unified Korea, and fielded a unified team (COR) in the women's ice hockey.

Norway led the total medal tally with 39, followed by Germany's 31 and Canada's 29.[2] Germany and Norway were tied for the highest number of gold medals, both winning 14. Host nation South Korea won 17 medals, their highest medal haul at a Winter Olympics, five of which were gold.

Bidding and election

Pyeongchang bid to host both the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics, but lost in the final rounds of voting to Vancouver and Sochi respectively.[3]

Munich also launched a bid to host these Games. Prior to Beijing's successful 2022 Winter Olympics bid, Munich would have become the first city to host both the Winter and the Summer Games, having previously hosted the 1972 Summer Olympics, but received only 25 votes. Annecy (in southeastern France) launched their own bid, which failed to secure public support from the local citizens. Their bid ended up receiving seven votes.[4]

Pyeongchang was elected as the host city at the 123rd IOC Session in Durban in 2011, earning the necessary majority of at least 48 votes in just one round of voting, more votes than its competitors combined. With this, Pyeongchang became the third Asian city to host the Winter Games; the first two were in Japan, at Sapporo (1972) and Nagano (1998).[5][6]

Development and preparation

On 5 August 2011, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced the formation of the Pyeongchang 2018 Coordination Commission.[7][8] On 4 October 2011, it was announced that the Organizing Committee for the 2018 Winter Olympics would be headed by Kim Jin-sun. The Pyeongchang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games (POCOG) was launched at its inaugural assembly on 19 October 2011. The first tasks of the organizing committee were putting together a master plan for the Games as well as forming a design for the venues.[9] The IOC Coordination Commission for the 2018 Winter Olympics made their first visit to Pyeongchang in March 2012. By then, construction was already underway on the Olympic Village.[10][11] In June 2012, construction began on a high-speed rail line that would connect Pyeongchang to Seoul.[12]

The International Paralympic Committee met for an orientation with the Pyeongchang 2018 organizing committee in July 2012.[13] Then-IOC President Jacques Rogge visited Pyeongchang for the first time in February 2013.[14]

The Pyeongchang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games created Pyeongchang WINNERS in 2014 by recruiting university students living in South Korea to spread awareness of the Olympic Games through social networking services and news articles.[15]

The design for the Games' medals was unveiled on 21 September 2017. Created by Lee Suk-woo, the design features a pattern of diagonal ridges on both sides, with the Olympic rings on the front, and the obverse showing the 2018 Olympics' emblem, the event name and the discipline. The edge of each medal is marked with extrusions of hangul alphabets, while the ribbons are made from a traditional South Korean textile.[16]

The torch relay started on 24 October 2017 in Greece and lasted for 101 days, ending at the start of the Olympics on 9 February 2018. The Olympic torch entered South Korea on 1 November 2017. There were 7,500 torch bearers to represent the combined Korean population of approximately 75 million people. There were also 2,018 support runners to guard the torch and act as messengers.

The torch and its bearers traveled by a diverse means of transportation, including by turtle ship in Hansando Island, sailboat on the Baengmagang River in Buyeo, marine cable car in Yeosu, zip-wire over Bamseom Island, steam train in the Gokseong Train Village, marine rail bike along the east coast in Samcheok, and by yacht in Busan Metropolitan City.

There were also robot torch relays in Jeju and Daejeon.[17]

Most of the outdoor snow events were held in the county of Pyeongchang, while some of the alpine skiing events took place in the neighboring county of Jeongseon. The indoor ice events were held in the nearby city of Gangneung.

The Alpensia Sports Park in Daegwallyeong-myeon, Pyeongchang, was the focus of the 2018 Winter Olympics.[18][19] It was home to the Olympic Stadium,[20] the Olympic Village and most of the outdoor sports venues.

Additionally, a stand-alone outdoor sports venue was located in Bongpyeong-myeon, Pyeongchang:

Another stand-alone outdoor sports venue was located in neighboring Jeongseon county:

The Gangneung Olympic Park, in the neighborhood of Gyo-dong in Gangneung city, includes four indoor sports venues, all in close proximity to one another.

In addition, a stand-alone indoor sports venue was located in the grounds of Catholic Kwandong University.

Ticket prices for the 2018 Winter Olympics were announced in April 2016 and tickets went on sale in October 2016. Event tickets ranged in price from 20,000 South Korean won (approx. US$18) to ₩900,000 (~US$818) while tickets for the opening and closing ceremonies ranged from ₩220,000 (~US$200) to ₩1.5 million (~US$1363). The exact prices were determined through market research; around 50% of the tickets were expected to cost about ₩80,000 (~US$73) or less, and tickets in sports that are relatively unknown in the region, such as biathlon and luge, were made cheaper in order to encourage attendance. By contrast, figure skating and the men's ice hockey gold-medal game carried the most expensive tickets of the Games.[21]

As of 11 October 2017, domestic ticket sales for the Games were reported to be slow. Of the 750,000 seats allocated to South Koreans, only 20.7% had been sold. International sales were more favorable, with 59.7% of the 320,000 allocated tickets sold.[22][23] However, as of 31 January 2018, 77% of all tickets had been sold.[24]

The Games

The opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics was held at the Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium on 9 February 2018; the US$100 million facility was only intended to be used for the opening and closing ceremonies of these Olympics and the subsequent Paralympics, and was demolished following their conclusion.[25][26][27]

The 2018 Winter Olympics featured 102 events over 15 disciplines in 7 sports,[28] making it the first Winter Olympics to surpass 100 medal events. Six new events in existing sports were introduced to the Winter Olympic program in Pyeongchang: men's and ladies' big air snowboarding, mixed doubles curling, men's and ladies' mass start speed skating, and mixed team alpine skiing.[28][29]

Numbers in parentheses indicate the number of medal events contested in each separate discipline.

A total of 92 teams qualified at least one athlete to compete in the Games. The number of athletes who qualified per country is listed in the table below (number of athletes shown in parentheses). Six nations made their Winter Olympics debut: Ecuador, Eritrea, Kosovo, Malaysia, Nigeria and Singapore.[30][31] Athletes from three further countries – the Cayman Islands, Dominica and Peru – qualified to compete, but all three National Olympic Committees returned the quota spots back to the International Ski Federation (FIS).[32]

Under an historic agreement facilitated by the IOC, qualified athletes from North Korea were allowed to cross the Korean Demilitarized Zone into South Korea to compete in the Games.[33][34][35] The two nations marched together under the Korean Unification Flag during the opening ceremony.[36][37] A unified Korean team, consisting of 12 players from North Korea and 23 from South Korea, competed in the women's ice hockey tournament under a special IOC country code designation (COR) following talks in Panmunjom on 17 January 2018.[38] The two nations also participated separately: the South Korea team competed in every sport and the North Korea team competed in alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, figure skating and short track speed skating.[39]

On 5 December 2017, the IOC announced that the Russian Olympic Committee had been suspended due to the Russian doping controversy and the investigation into the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Individual Russian athletes, who qualified and could demonstrate they had complied with the IOC's doping regulations, were given the option to compete at the 2018 Games as "Olympic Athletes from Russia" (OAR) under the Olympic flag and with the Olympic anthem played at any ceremony.[40]

a Apart from the respective delegations, North Korea and South Korea formed a unified Korean women's ice hockey team. b Russian athletes were entitled to participate as Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) if individually cleared by the IOC.

The IOC has allowed NBC to influence the Olympic event scheduling to maximize U.S. television ratings when possible, due to the substantial fees paid by NBC for rights to the Olympics (which have been extended through 2032 with a nearly $8 billion agreement).[47][48] As figure skating is one of the most popular Winter Olympic sports among U.S. viewers, the figure skating events were scheduled with morning start times to accommodate primetime broadcasts in the Americas. This scheduling practice affected the events themselves, including skaters having to adjust to the modified schedule, as well as lower attendance levels at the sessions.[49]

Conversely, and somewhat controversially, eight of the eleven biathlon events were scheduled at night, making it necessary for competitors to ski and shoot under floodlights, with colder temperatures and blustery winds.[50]

   Host nation (South Korea)[51]

Three podium sweeps were recorded during the Games.

The closing ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics was held at the Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium on 25 February 2018. IOC president Thomas Bach declared the Games closed, and the cauldron was extinguished.


Broadcast rights to the 2018 Winter Olympics were already sold in some countries as part of long-term broadcast rights deals, including the Games' local rightsholder SBS, which in July 2011 had extended its rights to the Olympics through 2024.[70] SBS sub-licensed its rights to MBC and KBS.[71]

On 29 June 2015, the IOC announced that Discovery Communications (now Discovery Inc.) had acquired exclusive rights to the Olympics across all of Europe (excluding Russia) from 2018 through 2024. Discovery's pan-European Eurosport channels were promoted as the main broadcaster of the Games, but Discovery's free-to-air channels such as DMAX in Spain,[72] Kanal 5 in Sweden, and TVNorge in Norway, were also involved in the overall broadcasting arrangements.[73] Discovery was required to sub-license at least 100 hours of coverage to free-to-air broadcasters in each market;[74][75] some of these agreements required certain sports to be exclusive to Eurosport and its affiliated networks.[76] The deal did not initially cover France due to the broadcast rights of France Télévisions, which run through to the 2020 Games.[77] In the United Kingdom, Discovery held exclusive pay television rights under licence from the BBC, in return for the BBC sub-licensing the free-to-air rights to the 2022 and 2024 Olympics from Discovery.[78]

Russian state broadcaster Channel One, and sports channel Match TV, committed to covering the Games with a focus on Russian athletes.[77] Russia was not affected by the Eurosport deal, due to a pre-existing contract held by a marketing agency which extends to 2024.[77]

In the United States, the Games were once again broadcast by NBCUniversal properties under a long-term contract.[79][80] On 28 March 2017, NBC announced that it would adopt a new format for its primetime coverage of the 2018 Winter Olympics, with a focus on live coverage in all time zones to take advantage of Pyeongchang's 14-hour difference with U.S. Eastern Time (and 17-hour difference with U.S. Pacific Time), and to address criticism of its previous tape delay practices. As before, the primetime block began at 8:00 p.m. ET (5:00 p.m. PT), and unlike previous Olympics, was available for streaming. Figure skating events were deliberately scheduled with morning sessions so they could be aired during primetime in the Americas (and in turn, NBC's coverage; due to the substantial fees NBC has paid for rights to the Olympics, the IOC has allowed NBC to have influence on event scheduling to maximize U.S. television ratings when possible; NBC agreed to a $7.75 billion contract extension on 7 May 2014, to air the Olympics through the 2032 games,[47] is also one of the major sources of revenue for the IOC).[48][49] Coverage took a break in the East for late local news, after which coverage continued into "Primetime Plus", featuring additional live coverage into the Eastern late night and Western primetime hours.

NHK and Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS) once again filmed portions of the Games in high-dynamic-range 8K resolution video, including 90 hours of footage of selected events and the opening ceremonies.[81][82] ATSC 3.0 digital terrestrial television, using 4K resolution, was introduced in South Korea in 2017 in time for the Olympics.[83][84] This footage was delivered in 4K in the U.S. by NBCUniversal parent Comcast to participating television providers, including its own Xfinity, as well as DirecTV and Dish Network. NBC's Raleigh-based affiliate WRAL-TV also held demonstration viewings as part of its ATSC 3.0 test broadcasts.[85][86][87]

The 2018 Winter Olympics were used to showcase 5G wireless technologies, as part of a collaboration between domestic wireless sponsor KT, and worldwide sponsor Intel. Several venues were outfitted with 5G networks to facilitate features such as live camera feeds from bobsleds, and multi-camera views from cross-country and figure skating events. These were offered as part of public demonstrations coordinated by the two sponsors.[88][89]

The winners of the Olympic Golden Rings Awards were announced in June 2019. There were 75 pieces of broadcast content from the 2018 Olympics submitted over ten categories (plus one category for the 2018 Youth Olympics). NBC won a total of eight awards, winning four of the main categories: Best Olympic Feature, Best Olympic Digital Service, Best Olympic Programme and Best Documentary Film; they came second in the Best On-Air Promotion and Best Social Media Content/Production categories. Discovery/Eurosport won four categories: Best On-Air Promotion, Best Production Design, Best Innovation and Best Social Media Content/Production; they also came second in the Best Olympic Digital Service category. The BBC and NHK took the other two main awards: Most Sustainable Operation and Best Athlete Profile respectively. The title of Best Feature at the Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018 was also awarded to the BBC.[90]


The official emblem, reflecting ice crystals and derived from the hangul letters and (the initial sounds of the "Pyeong" and "Chang"), was unveiled on 3 May 2013.[91] In all official materials, the name of the host city was stylized in CamelCase as "PyeongChang", in order to alleviate potential confusion with Pyongyang, the similarly-named capital of neighboring North Korea.[92]

New international sponsorship deals also debuted in Pyeongchang: Toyota was introduced as the new "Mobility" sponsor of the Olympics, although the company waived its domestic sponsorship to the local competitors Hyundai and Kia [93][94][95][96][97] Alibaba Group and Intel also debuted as e-commerce/cloud services and technology sponsors respectively.[98][99]

Concerns and controversies

Due to the state of relations between North and South Korea, concerns were raised over the security of the 2018 Winter Olympics, especially in the wake of tensions over North Korean missile and nuclear tests. On 20 September 2017, South Korean president Moon Jae-in stated that the country would ensure the security of the Games.[100] The next day, Laura Flessel-Colovic, the French Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports, stated that France would pull out of the Games if the safety of its delegation could not be guaranteed.[101]

The next day, Austria and Germany raised similar concerns and also threatened to skip the Games. France later reaffirmed its participation.[102] In early December 2017, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, told Fox News that it was an "open question" whether the United States was going to participate in the Games, citing security concerns in the region.[103] However, days later the White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, stated that the United States would participate.[104]

In his New Year's address on 1 January 2018, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un proposed talks in Seoul over the country's participation in the Games, which would be the first high-level talks between the North and South in over two years. Because of the talks, held on 9 January, North Korea agreed to field athletes in Pyeongchang.[105][106] On 17 January 2018, it was announced that North and South Korea had agreed to field a unified Korean women's ice hockey team at the Games, and to enter together under a Korean Unification Flag during the opening ceremony.[107][108]

These moves were met with opposition in South Korea, including protests and online petitions; critics argued that the government was attempting to use the Olympics to spread pro-North Korean sentiment, and that the unified hockey team would fail.[109] A rap video entitled "The Regret for Pyeongchang" (평창유감), which echoed this criticism and called the event the "Pyongyang Olympics", went viral in the country.[110] Japan's foreign affairs minister Tarō Kōno warned South Korea to be wary of North Korea's "charm offensive", and not to ease its pressure on the country.[107][111]

The South Korean President, Moon Jae-in, at the start of the Olympics shook hands with Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and a prominent figure of the regime. This marked the first time since the Korean War that a member of the ruling Kim dynasty had visited South Korea.[112][113] In contrast, U.S. vice president Mike Pence met with Fred Warmbier (father of Otto Warmbier, who had died after being released from captivity in North Korea) and a group of North Korean defectors in Pyeongchang.[114] American officials said that North Korea cancelled a meeting with Pence at the last minute.[115]

At the closing ceremony, North Korea sent general Kim Yong-chol as its delegate. His presence was met with hostility from South Korean conservatives, as there were allegations that he had a role in the ROKS Cheonan sinking and other past attacks. The Ministry of Unification stated that "there is a limitation in pinpointing who was responsible for the incident." Although he is subject to sanctions, they did not affect his ability to visit the country for the Games.[116][117]

Russia's participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics was affected by the aftermath of its state-sponsored doping program. As a result, the IOC suspended the Russian Olympic Committee in December 2017, although Russian athletes whitelisted by the IOC were allowed to compete neutrally under the OAR (Olympic Athletes from Russia) designation.[118] The official sanctions imposed by the IOC included: the exclusion of Russian government officials from the Games; the use of the Olympic flag and Olympic Anthem in place of the Russian flag and anthem; and the submission of a replacement logo for the OAR uniforms.[119]

By early January 2018, the IOC had banned 43 Russian athletes from competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics and all future Olympic Games (as part of the Oswald Commission). Of those athletes, 42 appealed against their bans to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and 28 of the appeals were successful, but eleven of the athletes had their sanctions upheld due to the weight of evidence against them. The IOC found it important to note that CAS Secretary General "insisted that the CAS decision does not mean that these 28 athletes are innocent" and that they would consider an appeal against the court's decision. Hearings for the remaining three athletes were postponed.[120]

The eventual number of neutral Russian athletes that participated at the 2018 Games was 168. These were selected from an original pool of 500 athletes that was put forward for consideration and, in order to receive an invitation to the Games, they were obliged to meet a number of pre-games conditions. Two athletes, who met the conditions and were cleared by the IOC, subsequently failed drug tests during the Games.

Russian president Vladimir Putin and other officials had signalled in the past that it would be a humiliation if Russian athletes were not allowed to compete under the Russian flag.[121] However, there were never actually any official plans to boycott the 2018 Games[118] and in late 2017 the Russian government agreed to allow their athletes to compete at the Games as individuals under a neutral designation.[122][123] Despite this public show of co-operation, there were numerous misgivings voiced by leading Russian politicians, including a statement from Putin himself saying that he believed the United States had used its influence within the IOC to "orchestrate the doping scandal".[124] 86% of the Russian population opposed participation at the Olympics under a neutral flag,[125] and many Russian fans attended the Games wearing the Russian colors and chanting "Russia!" in unison, in an act of defiance against the ban.[126]

The IOC's decision was heavily criticized by Jack Robertson, primary investigator of the Russian doping program on behalf of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), in whose opinion the judgement was commercially and politically motivated. He argued that not only was doping rife amongst Russian athletes but that there was no sign of it being eradicated.[127] The CAS decision to overturn the life bans of 28 Russian athletes and restore their medals was also fiercely criticized, by Olympic officials, IOC president Thomas Bach and whistleblower Grigory Rodchenkov's lawyer.[128]

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