PyeongChang 2018 has Arrived

The 2018 Winter Olympics are here, well almost. As I write this, the opening ceremonies, in PyeongChang, South Korea, are hours away. Thousands of athletes, coaches, trainers, journalists, volunteers and spectators from around the world have arrived in this northeastern, mountainous community on the Korean peninsula. And as I see on the official website for these Olympic games, formal training events have already happened for certain sports, such as Biathlon, Luge and Ski Jumping (I love watching ski jumping, or experimenting with it on my Wii, but you won’t catch me trying it for real!).

The Winter Olympics is a key event on my sports calendar, something I look forward to every four years. I become a terrible TV junkie and become addicted to sports like bobsleigh and short track speed skating that I basically ignore in the years between the Olympics. Somehow watching a person flying down an ice-covered track is only exciting to me when it’s in the context of this massive multi-sport international event. And I doubt that PyeongChang will disappoint.

With the 14-hour time difference between PyeongChang and Toronto, at times it will be a challenge to watch all my beloved Olympic sports live. But I will try. First up are the opening ceremonies, which are scheduled to begin Friday evening in PyeongChang, or, if you do the math, early morning in Toronto. Canadian networks start their live opening ceremonies coverage at about 5:30 am Friday morning, February 9th.  I will set my alarm so that I can watch it all unfold, live. I most probably will be warm and cozy in my bed and watch in a semi-conscious state, but I won’t miss it.

One advantage of the Olympics happening in PyeongChang, half a world away and 14 hours ahead, is that the live events don’t interfere with my day, for the most part. I don’t have to sneak away while at work and check results. On the other hand, if competitions like the Men’s Alpine Combined Slalom event only starts at 1:00 am my time, I may not get much sleep over the next couple of weeks.

While I am an Olympics junkie, I will admit that there are some sports I just can’t don’t have the patience to watch. I respect all athletes who compete and train for these high calibre events, but no matter how hard I try, I just can’t catch on. Some examples:

Biathlon

To put it simply, this is two sports (hence “bi” in the title) combined, in which a person straps on a pair of cross-country skis, follows a set course, and at certain points, the athlete shoots a gun at a target. The more targets the athlete misses, the more loops around the set course that person must make. While I am sure it takes great skill to be an expert at two events at the same time, I just don’t see the attraction to it.

Curling

I am Canadian, and I don’t like to watch curling. This event involves throwing a rock on ice, hoping to get the rock into a specified zone and knock the opponent’s rocks out. I just don’t see the joy in watching it. Many people around the world, particularly in Northern communities, like to participate in curling. At its most amateur levels, all you really need is some ice and rocks, which are easy to find in Canada in the winter. At the competitive level, you need a beautifully smooth ice surface, and the rocks aren’t really rocks.

Skeleton

This one I have trouble watching simply because it gives me nightmares. Would you want to put on a skin-tight body suit, lie face-down on a board, then fly down a frozen path head first, at high speed? There are many people who seem to enjoy doing this, and I just can’t understand why. This sport made its debut back in St. Moritz in 1928 and again in 1948, and it’s been a permanent part of the Winter Olympics since 2002.

I don’t have a favourite sport or event, but I am looking forward to a few specific races which include participants from my family’s ski club, Alpine.  Roni Remme will be competing in Ladies Alpine events and Derek Livingston, who is part of the Canadian Men’s Snowboard Halfpipe team, is there too.

I am looking forward to watching, discussing, analyzing and sharing my thoughts about the Olympics over the next couple of weeks. As the world’s attention focuses on PyeongChang, I am sending my best wishes to all the athletes (especially Roni and Derek!), and I hope the 2018 Winter Olympics is fair, fun and memorable.

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