On 9 February a key milestone will be reached in the build-up to the next Olympic Winter Games as PyeongChang 2018 celebrates the one-year-to-go mark. And there is a real sense that the Games are already taking shape, with a number of test events already completed, tickets sales set to start on the day of one year to go, and some 91,000 applications received for the 22,400 places that will be filled on the volunteer programme.
Spearheaded by the likes of Korean figure skating legend Yuna Kim and US Alpine skier Lindsey Vonn, the team of official ambassadors for PyeongChang 2018 are busy raising the profile of the Games at home and abroad.
And with the mascot, logo and pictograms for PyeongChang 2018 all now unveiled, the world is properly getting to grips with the ‘look and feel’ of the first Olympic Winter Games to take place on Korean snow and ice. Over the last eight months, Soohorang, the white tiger mascot, has travelled as far as Brazil, as he helps to generate interest and excitement in the next Winter Games, while the distinctive pictograms, based on the traditional Korean alphabet, are helping to give the Games a very local flavour.
Accent on youth
Eight new medal events at PyeongChang will take the total of golds up for grabs to 102, more than any previous Olympic Winter Games, and the first time in history that the number will have exceeded 100. And with the IOC actively helping to take Winter sports to new frontiers, there may well be some new NOCs taking part, with the tantalising possibility of a Ugandan snowboarder and a Nigerian bobsleigh team among the prospects looking to qualify for the Games, demonstrating that snow and ice sports do not need to be the preserve of the traditional ‘powerhouses’.
The new events will certainly add a new dimension to these Games, with the accent very much on increasing the appeal of the Olympic Winter programme to young audiences around the world. Certain to give the Games a youthful vibe is the snowboard Big Air, which transports the aesthetic of the skateboard park onto the Olympic slopes, and sees competitors flying off a highly-pitched ramp and performing jumps with multiple flips and spins, is guaranteed to thrill snowboard aficionados and new fans alike.
The other new events all have a strong team ethic and help the Games bridge the gender divide. Curling has been a hugely popular feature of the Winter programme since its return to the programme in 2006, and for the first time in PyeongChang, a mixed doubles event will appear alongside the traditional men’s and women’s team events. Alpine skiing, traditionally one of the most ‘individual’ of sports, will also have its own mixed team event for the first time, boasting an exciting new format. And finally, the speed skating programme in PyeongChang will be rounded off with men’s and women’s ‘mass start’ events.Big Air is one of a number of events that have already staged test competitions in PyeongChang. Cross-country, Nordic combined and short track have also been put through their paces in recent months, as their respective World Cups staged events at their PyeongChang venues, while Alpine events have taken place this year and last year. So far, the clear message being delivered is that the 2018 Olympic Winter Games are going to benefit from the renowned Korean efficiency and eye for detail.