2018 Winter Olympics: Schedule, Athletes to look out for and the political ramifications

2018 Winter Olympics run from February 9-February 25 in PyeongChang, South Korea. This is the second Olympics for South Korea and the first Winter Olympics. It is the 23rd edition of the Winter Games.

Written by Tanuj Lakhina | Updated: February 9, 2018 10:33:20 pm
Opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics 2018 Winteer Olympics officially began with the opening ceremony on February 9, 2018. (Source: Reuters)

PyeongChang Olympics officially got underway on Friday, February 9, with the opening ceremony in the hilly South Korean city. The 23rd edition of the Winter Olympics will take place in PyeongChang in South Korea – 80 kilometres south of the Demilitarized Zone dividing North and South Korea. The two nations have been on the verge of a nuclear war in the recent past. This is the second time that Korea have been awarded the privilege of hosting an Olympics – in 1988 Seoul hosted the Summer Games.

With their motto of “new horizons” and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) wanting to bring in new cities and locations, PyeongChang became an ideal choice after failing to be chosen as the Winter Olympics host city in 2010 and 2014. For the 2018 edition, the South Korean city beat away the challenge of winter sport powerhouses Munich, Germany, and Annecy, France.

The games began with sporting events on February 8 but it officially got underway with the opening ceremony and lighting of the Olympic cauldron by South Korean figure skating superstar Kim Yuna. With diplomats from numerous countries in attendance including United Sttaes Vice President – Mike Pence, Kim Yo Jong – sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Kim Yong Nam – North Korea’s nominal head of state and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. The Games go on until February 25 with the closing ceremony before the torch is officially passed to Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

MUST READ | 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea: Everything you need to know


The 2018 Winter Games will feature 102 events in 15 sporting discipline with big air snowboarding, mass start speed skating, mixed doubles curling and mixed team alpine skiing making their first appearance in PyeongChang. A combined 2,592 athletes from 92 teams – including the highly controversial Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) – will compete at the Games. Ecuador, Kosovo, Malaysia, Nigeria and Singapore will be making their debut appearance.

February 8
Mixed Doubles Curling

February 9
2018 Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony
Mixed Doubles Curling

February 10
Biathlon Women’s 7.5km Sprint
Cross-Country Skiing: Ladies 7.5km + 7.5km Skiathlon
Mixed Doubles Curling
Women’s Ice Hockey
Luge Men’s Singles*
Short Track Speed Skating – Ladies’ 500m Heats, Ladies’ 3000m Relay Heats, Men’s 1500m
Ski Jumping – Men’s Normal Hill Individual
Snowboard – Men’s Slopestyle qualifying
Speed Skating – Ladies’ 3000m

February 11
Aline Skiing – Men’s Downhill
Biathlon – Men’s 10 km Sprint
Cross-Country Skiing – Men’s 15 km + 15 km Skiathlon
Curling – Mixed Doubles
Figure Skating – Team Event
Freestyle Skiing – Women’s Moguls Final
Ice Hockey – Women’s Preliminary Round
Luge – Men’s Single Heat 3 & 4
Snowboard – Men’s Slopestyle Finals, Women’s Slopestyle Qualification
Speed Skating – Men’s 5000 m

Mixed doubles curling has been introduced to the Winter Olympics for the first time. (Source: AP)

February 12
Alpine Skiing – Women’s Giant Slalom
Biathlon – Women’s 10 km Pursuit, Men’s 12.5 km Pursuit
Curling – Mixed Doubles Semifinals
Figure Skating – Team Event
Freestyle Skiing – Men’s Moguls Final
Ice Hockey – Women’s Preliminary Round
Luge – Women’s Single Heat 1 & 2
Ski Jumping – Women’s Normal Hill Individual Final
Snowboard – Women’s Slopestyle Finals, Women’s Halfpipe Qualification
Speed Skating – Women’s 1500 m

February 13
Alpine Skiing – Men’s Alpine Combined
Cross-Country Skiing – M/W Individual Sprint Classic
Curling – Mixed Doubles Bronze/Gold Medal
Ice Hockey – Women’s Preliminary Round
Luge – Women’s Single Heat 3 & 4
Short Track Speed Skating – Women’s 500 m Final, Men’s 1000 m Qualification, Men’s 5000 m Relay Qualification
Snowboard – Women’s Halfpipe Finals, Men’s Halfpipe Qualifications
Speed Skating – Men’s 1500 m

February 14
Alpine Skiing – Women’s Slalom
Biathlon – Women’s 15 km Individual
Curling – Men’s Tournament #1, #2, Women’s Tournament #1
Figure Skating – Pairs Short Program
Ice Hockey – Women’s and Men’s Preliminary Round
Luge – Doubles Heat 1 & 2
Nordic Combined – Men’s Individual Normal Hill, Individual Gundersen NH/10km
Snowboard – Men’s Halfpipe Finals
Speed Skating – Women’s 1000m

February 15
Alpine skiing – Men’s super-G
Biathlon – Men’s 20km individual
Cross-country skiing – women’s 10km individual
Curling – men’s and women’s round robin
Figure skating – women’s aerials qualifying
Women’s hockey – preliminary matches
Men’s hockey – preliminary matches
Luge – team relay
Skeleton – men’s heat races
Snowboarding – men’s cross
Speed skating – men’s 10,000m

February 16
Cross-country skiing – men’s 15km individual**
Curling – men’s and women’s round robin
Figure skating – men’s short program
Freestyle skiing -women’s aerials final
Men’s hockey – preliminary matches
Ski jumping – men’s large hill qualifying
Snowboarding – women’s cross
Speed skating – women’s 5,000m

February 17
Alpine skiing – women’s super-G
Biathlon – women’s 12.5km mass start
Cross-country skiing – women’s 4km x 5km relay
Curling – men’s and women’s round robin
Figure skating – men’s short program final
Freestyle skiing – women’s slopestyle qualifying, final and men’s aerials qualifying
Men’s hockey – preliminary matches
Women’s hockey – two knockout round matches
Short track speed skating – men’s 1,500m, women’s 1,000m
Skeleton – women’s heat races
Ski jumping – men’s large hill

February 18
Alpine skiing – men’s giant slalom
Biathlon – men’s 15km mass start
Bobsleigh – two-man heat races
Cross-country skiing – men’s 4km x 10km relay
Curling – men’s and women’s round robin
Freestyle skiing – men’s slopestyle qualifying, final and men’s aerials final
Men’s hockey – classification matches
Speed skating – women’s 500m, men’s team pursuit qualifying

February 19
Bobsleigh – two-man heat races
Curling – men’s and women’s round robin
Figure skating – ice dancers
Freestyle skiing – women’s halfpipe qualifying
Women’s hockey – semi-finals
Ski jumping – team competition
Snowboarding – women’s big air qualifying
Speed skating – women’s team pursuit qualifying

Ski Jumping training in Men’s Normal Hill at Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre in Pyeongchang, South Korea. (Source: Reuters)

February 20
Biathlon – mixed relay
Bobsleigh – women’s heat races
Curling – men’s and women’s round robin
Figure skating – ice dance, free dance
Freestyle skiing – women’s halfpipe final, men’s halfpipe qualifying
Men’s hockey – knockout rounds
Women’s hockey – classification matches
Nordic combined – large hill competition
Short track speed skating – women’s 1,000m qualifying, men’s 500m qualifying, women’s 3,000 relay final

February 21
Alpine skiing – women’s downhill
Bobsleigh – women’s heat races
Cross-country skiing – men’s and women’s sprint semi-finals
Curling – men’s and women’s round robin
Figure skating – ladies short program
Freestyle skiing – men’s cross
Men’s hockey – quarter-finals
Snowboarding – men’s big air qualifying
Speed skating – men’s and women’s team pursuit finals

February 22
Alpine skiing – men’s slalom
Biathlon – women’s 4km x 6km relay
Curling – men’s semi-finals
Freestyle skiing – men’s halfpipe final
Women’s hockey – bronze and gold medal matches
Nordic combined – team competition
Short track speed skating – men’s 500m finals, women’s 1,000m finals, men’s 5,000m relay
Snowboarding – men’s and women’s parallel giant slalom qualifying

February 23
Alpine skiing – women’s alpine combined
Biathlon – men’s 4km x 7km relay
Curling – men’s and women’s semi-finals
Figure skating – ladies free skate
Freestyle skiing – women’s cross
Men’s hockey – semi-final matches
Snowboarding – women’s big air final
Speed skating – men’s 1,000m final

February 24
Alpine skiing – team event
Bobsleigh – four-man heat races
Cross-country skiing – men’s 50km mass start
Curling – men’s gold and silver match, women’s bronze match
Men’s hockey – bronze medal match
Snowboarding – men’s big air final, men’s and women’s giant parallel slalom finals
Speed skating – men’s and women’s mass start

February 25
Bobsleigh – four-man heat races
Cross-country skiing – women’s 30km mass start
Curling women’s gold medal match
Figure skating – exhibition gala
Men’s hockey – gold medal match

* = Shiva Keshavan will compete in his sixth and final Winter Olympics in Luge

** = Jagdish Singh will compete for India in the Cross-country Skiing event.

Athletes to keep an eye out for

Winter Sports do not usually get the same type of hype and attention that the Summer Olympics or traditional events do. So gathering momentum and publicity is all the more trickier for athletes in Winter Olympics. And yet the likes of Shaun White and Lindsey Vonn have managed to do just that. With their stupendous exploits over the years, they’ve managed to become popular names and earned high profile endorsements.

Shaun White, a two-time gold medallist, has a massive fan following and enough to earn him a place in a halftime advertisement during the Super Bowl. And he would be looking to add to that tally with a medal in the half-pipe this year. The fact that he had his face split wide open and needed 62 stitches after an accident – including stitches in his tongue at the moment – only add to his aura. Scoring a perfect 100 at the US Grand Prix to qualify for PyeongChang only makes things sweeter.

Lindsey Vonn, also a two-time medallist at the Olympics (gold and bronze in Vancouver), also has a history of injury woes and yet is here to vie for the yellow metals. And she gave a fair warning to her rivals with a win in the World Cup downhill in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

Karen Chen, 18, of the USA could finally break the country’s quest for a women’s figure skating gold. And she comes in with record-breaking national score, fourth-place at the world championship, the country has high expectations from her.

Gus Kenworthy has gathered attention less due to his qualification for the freestyle skiing event but more due to the fact that he is an openly gay athlete – only the second in US Olympic Team – and following his silver medal in slopestyle in Sochi, a win and things could take a dramatic turn. Alongside gay figure skater Adam Rippon, they’ve been critical of US Vice President Mike Pence who has made anti-gay comments in the past.

Poland’s Kamil Stoch brings plenty of star quality to ski jump. His two gold medals from Sochi 2014 explain just that with podium finishes in the normal hill and large hill.

On the ice hockey rink, even with the NHL players missing, the eyes will be transfixed with moment of history when a unified Korean women’s team takes on Switzerland.

After the Jamaican men’s boblsed team triumphed at the Calgary 1988 Games, it now the turn of the ladies to qualify and gather plenty of attention for themselves.

India at Winter Olympics

Shiva Keshavan and the Indian contingent at the 2018 Winter Olympics India were led by Shiva Keshavan at the 2018 Winter Olympics. (Source: PTI)

India will see two representatives at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. Shiva Keshavan carried the Indian tri-colour during the opening ceremony in his sixth and final appearance at the Games. Despite making numerous appearances and being India’s flag bearer in Winter Sports, he has had trouble finding consistent support from sponsors. The funds only arrived closer to the Olympics. The Luge pilot will compete on February 10.

If Keshavan’s funds arrived late, Jagdish Singh’s arrival was delayed to the South Korean city. The cross-country skier wished to have Major General Atul Kaushil by his side in PyeongChang as his coach. However, the Winter Games Federation of India (WGFI) had nominated Jodh Singh Dhillon and Roshan Lal Thakur and both were rejected. Originally planned to leave with Keshavan on February 3, his departure from India was thus delayed. In the end, Jagdish was accompanied by former cross country skier Nadeem Iqbal, who took part in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. They eventually left for South Korea on February 7. Away from the mess over who would accompany him to the Korean city, Jagdish would put his skills to test in the 15km Nordic freestyle skiiing on February 16.

North meets South – momentarily

North and South Korea will field a combined women's ice hockey team A combined Korea women’s hockey team will compete at the Winter Olympics. (Source: Reuters)

In the run up to the Games, the buzz was around nations worried about the athletes’ safety owing to North Korea’s regular nuclear tests in retaliation to the American threats. However, that scenario changed in January, 2018, when North and South Korea decided to march together during the Opening Ceremony and field a unified women’s ice hockey team. These moves, however, drew plenty of criticism in the South as they believed the North was using the Olympics as a platform to justify the pro-North Korea sentiment.

At the opening ceremony, North Korea was represented by Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong and Kim Yong Nam, the country’s 90-year-old nominal head of state; Choe Hwi, chairman of the country’s National Sports Guidance Committee; and Ri Son Gwon, chairman of the North’s agency that deals with inter-Korean affairs. Also seated in the VIP box were Pence and his wife despite the US VP issuing strong threats to North Korea recently.

Russia’s participation at the Winter Olympics has also been impacted by the scandal surrounding the state-sponsored doping. Even in the lead up to the Winter Games, some of the athletes’ life bans, previously imposed by the IOC, were lifted by the CAS. A total of 168 athletes from Russia will bear the Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) tag and compete under the neutral flag of the Olympics. A total of 28 Russian athletes had their life bans lifted by CAS prior to the Games, however, IOC chose not to include them for the PyeongChang games.

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