The 2018 Winter Olympics kicked off on Friday with an Opening Ceremony in PyeongChang, South Korea. This year’s competition hosts 92 countries, the most in the event’s history.
It is the first time South Korea has hosted the Winter Olympics, which feature 102 events in 15 sports. There are new events this year, including including big air snowboarding, mass start speed skating, mixed doubles curling, and mixed team alpine skiing. There are six new countries too, and the biggest delegation in history.
Here’s everything you need to know:
1. The United States Delegation Is the Largest In History
The United States has 242 athletes competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics.This year’s delegation is the biggest Winter Olympic team in history. It beats the previous record, also held by Team USA, of 222 athletes in 2014.
Luge champion Erin Hamlin carried the United States flag during the Opening Ceremony in Pyeongchang. Speed skater Shani Davis hoped to carry the flag, and after losing a coin toss boycotted the ceremony.
American athletes will compete in alpine skiing, the biathlon, bobsleigh, cross-country skiing, curling, figure skating, freestyle skiing, ice hockey, luge, nordic combined, short track speed skating, skeleton, ski jumping, snowboarding, and speed skating.
2. Some Countries Have Only One Member in Their Delegation, and Others are Competing for the First Time
Some countries, mostly those that are smaller or have warmer climates where practicing winter sport is difficult, have only one member in their delegation. Azerbaijan, Bermuda, Cyprus, Ecuador, Eritrea, Ghana, Hong Kong, Kenya, Kosovo, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malta, Puerto Rico, San Marino, Singapore, South Africa, Timor Leste, Togo, and Tonga all sent one athlete to PyeongChang.
Six countries are competing in the Winter Olympics for the first time. Ecuador is sending Klaus Jungbluth Rodriguez to compete in cross country skiing, and Shannon-Ogbani Abeda will be skiing in slalom events for Eritrea. Kosovo will also be sending a skier, alpine skier Albin Tahiri, who will compete in the men’s downhill, super-G, giant slalom, slalom, and alpine combined events. Malaysia has two competitors in this year’s Olympics. Jeffrey Webb, and 18-year-old alpine skier, and Julian Zhi-jie, competing in men’s figure skating. Speed skater Cheyanne Goh will compete for Singapore.
Nigeria will send it’s first ever bobsled team to the Olympics. Moriam Seun Adigun created the team in 2016 with two friends, who funded their training, equipment, and travel expenses through a GoFundMe campaign.
3. Russian Athletes Will Compete, but Not Under Russia’s Flag
The International Olympic Committee suspended the Russian Olympic Committee from the games in December 2017 because of doping violations. Athletes with a consistent drug testing history and no previous allegations against them could compete under the Olympic Flag.
Five hundred Russian athletes were put forward for consideration, and 111 were immediately removed due to past allegations. The remaining athletes underwent drug testing and had previous samples tested. In the end, 168 Russian athletes are in Pyeongchang for the 2018 Winter Olympics, competing under the Olympic Flag as “Olympic Athlete from Russia.”
Russian officials were barred from the game, and no Russian National Anthem was played during the Opening Ceremony.
4. South Korea has 122 Athletes Competing, as Well as a United Team With North Korea
South Korea, this year’s host country, has 122 athletes competing. Athletes will compete in alpine skiing, biathlon, bobsleigh, cross-country skiing, curling, figure skating, freestyle skiing, ice hockey, luge, nordic combined, short track speed skating, skeleton, ski jumping, snowboarding, and speed skating.
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South Korea also has a united women’s hockey team with North Korea. The team will compete under the title “Korea,” and under the country code COR. The folk song Arirang will play when they compete, rather than a national anthem from either country. The team’s uniforms show a frame of the Korean peninsula.
South Korea bid to host the Winter Olympics in 2010 and 2014, and hosted the Summer Olympics in 1988.
5. Other Large Delegations Come From Mostly Northern Countries
As is typical with the Winter Olympics, most of the countries with the largest delegations and best ranked athletes are located in northern regions, where snow and ice are plentiful.
Canada’s delegation includes 226 athletes, followed by Switzerland’s with 169, Germany with 156 athletes, Italy’s at 122 (tied with South Korea), Sweden’s at 118, Norway’s at 109, and Austria’s at 105.
Great Britain is sending it’s largest team to the 2018 Olympics. Fifty-nine athletes will compete in South Korea, and the country is hoping to beat it’s record of four medals achieved in 1924 and 2014.
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