Winter Olympics 2018 officially start on Friday

EPA-EFE/LARRY W. SMITH

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The 23rd Olympic Winter Games will officially kick off Friday in PyeongChang, South Korea. 

PyeongChang was selected as the host city in July 2011, during the 123rd International Olympic Committee Session in Durban, South Africa, as the first South Korean city ever to host the Winter Olympics. Nation’s capital Seoul hosted the 1988 Summer Olympic Games.

The Games will feature 102 events in 15 disciplines, including the addition of big air snowboarding, mass start speed skating, mixed doubles curling, and mixed team alpine skiing to the Winter Olympic program.

A total of 2,952 athletes from 92 National Olympic Committees will compete, including the debut of Kosovo, Ecuador, Eritrea, Malaysia, Nigeria and Singapore.

Four athletes from Bosnia and Herzegovina will compete in the Winter Olympics: Elvedina Muzaferija and Emir Lokmic in alpine skiing, Mladen Plakalovic and Tanja Karisik in cross-country skiing.

Photo: EPA-EFE/YONHAP

PyeongChang is a county in Gangwon Province of South Korea, located some 180 kilometers east-southeast of Seoul, and approximately 80 kilometers from the border between South Korea and North Korea.

The county itself has less than 44,000 residents, and its name is often confused with the name of North Korean capital Pyongyang.

In October 2014, a Kenyan participant at a United Nations conference in PyeongChang travelled by mistake to Pyongyang, and spent hours on the airport in one of the most repressive countries in the world.

He was eventually forced to pay some USD 500 for a plane ticket out of the country and ordered to sign a pledge saying he would never return to North Korea without a visa.

Songjae Lim, a spokesperson for the PyeongChang Olympic organizing committee, explained that the incident had prompted officials in PyeongChang to change the name of the city.

Previously known in English as Pyongchang, officials rebranded the city as PyeongChang, with an ‘e’ and capital ‘c’, to highlight the difference between their city and the North Korean capital.

Olympic mascot Soohorang, the white tiger [Photo: EPA-EFE/YONHAP]

The 2018 Winter Olympics will feature the unified Korean women’s ice hockey team, but there will be no athletes competing under the Russian flag.

As a punishment for the state-sponsored doping in Sochi four years ago, the IOC suspended the Russian Olympic Committee, and barred its athletes from participating under the Russian flag; however, Russian athletes whitelisted by the IOC - 168 of them - will be allowed to compete under the title ‘Olympic Athletes from Russia’.  

The 23rd Olympic Winter Games will also feature Nigerian women’s bobsleigh team - after Seun Adigun and her teammates built a wooden sled and practiced in Houston, without snow, and then purchased a new sled thanks to an USD 75,000 crowdfunding campaign. Furthermore, Tongan taekwondo practitioner Pita Taufatofua, who represented his country at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, will be in PyeongChang as well, this time as a cross-country skier.  

Photo: EPA-EFE/LARRY W. SMITH

U.S.-based data company Gracenote forecast Norway to win an Olympic record of 41 medals, and Germany to end the Games with 39.

24-year-old German biathlete Laura Dahlmeier is forecast to win six gold medals: the 7.5 kilometers sprint, 10km pursuit, 12.5km mass start, 15km individual, 4x6km and 2x6 + 2x7.5km relay, which would undoubtedly make her the Games’ most successful athlete.

Photo: EPA-EFE/NIC BOTHMA