Sports: 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang
When do they start? What will the time difference mean to viewers? What about Russia?: A snapshot look at the Winter Games in South Korea
By Bev Wake
1. THE IMPORTANT STUFF
These are the second Olympics in South Korea, following the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul. They officially begin on Friday, Feb. 9 and end 17 days later on Sunday, Feb. 25. By the time they are done, 2,925 athletes representing 92 countries will have competed in 15 sports. Some athletes will begin their quest for gold prior to the opening ceremonies: mixed doubles curling starts Thursday — Wednesday night back in Canada — as does ski jumping. On Friday — again, Thursday evening back in Canada — moguls skiers will compete in qualifying heats, while the team figure skating competition opens with the men’s and pairs short programs.
2. ABOUT THAT TIME DIFFERENCE …
There is a 14-hour time difference between South Korea and Toronto and a 17-hour time difference between Korea and Vancouver. For Canadians, that’s going to make viewing some sports a challenge. On Friday, Feb. 9, for example, the opening ceremonies take place from 8 to 10 p.m. in PyeongChang. Toronto residents could get up early to watch them, starting at 6 a.m. In Vancouver, they start at 3 a.m. On the final day, Sunday, Feb. 25, the men’s gold-medal hockey game is scheduled to start at 1:10 p.m. in Korea and end at 4 p.m. While that’s a reasonable 8:10 p.m. start on a Saturday night in Vancouver, ending at 11 p.m., the game won’t start until 11:10 p.m. in Toronto, ending at 2 a.m.
3. HOW TO WATCH
CBC has the broadcasting rights in Canada and will air 18 hours of live coverage daily and 21 hours in total, including every medal-winning moment. On TV, Olympic Games Primetime with Scott Russell will air daily from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. ET (4-11 p.m. PT), while Olympic Games Morning with Andi Petrillo and Alexandre Despatie will air from 6 a.m. to noon ET (3-9 a.m. PT). Craig McMorris and Kelly VanderBeek will host Olympic Games Overnight from 2-6 a.m. ET (11 p.m.-3 a.m. PT). On top of this, Olympic Games Hockey will run live from 12-1 p.m. ET (9-10 a.m. PT), with an encore presentation from 5-6 p.m. ET (2-3 p.m. PT). TSN, Sportsnet and TLN will offer live event coverage, too. Live and on-demand videos will be available online at cbc.ca/olympics, as well as on the CBC Olympics app. CBC also has a free Olympics Virtual Reality app available for iOS 0n Android devices.
4. MEET TEAM CANADA
Canada is sending 225 athletes to PyeongChang — 122 men and 103 women — its largest team in Winter Olympic history. Of those athletes, 46 are Olympic medallists, while 119 will be competing in their first Games. The best-represented province is Ontario, with 68 athletes, followed by Alberta with 54, Quebec with 50 and B.C. with 30. The only provinces and territories without an athlete are New Brunswick and Nunavut.
5. HOW WILL CANADA DO?
Most experts are picking Canada to win somewhere between 27 and 34 medals, which would set a Canadian record for medals at a single Games. The previous records for total medals (26) and gold medals (14, which is also an Olympic record) were set in Vancouver in 2010. Canada won 25 medals in Sochi four years ago. Canada needs 24 medals to move ahead of the Soviet Union into fifth spot on the all-time Winter Olympic medals list. The top six heading into PyeongChang are: Norway (329), the United States (282), Austria (218), Germany (209), the Soviet Union (193) and Canada (170).
Canada needs 24 medals to move ahead of the Soviet Union into fifth spot on the all-time Winter Olympic medals list.
6. MORE MEDAL MAGIC
There will be 102 medals awarded in PyeongChang, surpassing 100 for the first time in Winter Olympic history. Six medal events have been added to the Olympic programme this year: snowboard Big Air (men and women), speed skating mass start (men and women), mixed doubles curling and the alpine team event. This is in addition to the 10 events added to the Sochi Olympics: ski halfpipe (men and women), ski slopestyle (men and women), snowboard slopestyle (men and women), women’s ski jumping, biathlon mixed relay, team figure skating, luge team relay.
7. BEGINNER’S LUCK?
Canadian athletes have a history of doing well in new Olympic events. In the 10 new medal events in Sochi, for example, they came away with five medals: gold in women’s ski slopestyle (Dara Howell), silver in team figure skating and men’s ski halfpipe (Mike Riddle), and bronze in men’s snowboard slopestyle (Mark McMorris) and women’s ski slopestyle (Kim Lamarre). While Canadians have legitimate medal shots in Big Air and mass start in PyeongChang, it’s the mixed curling team that may be facing the most pressure. No Canadian curling team has ever left an Olympic Games without a medal, winning five gold, three silver and two bronze in 10 tries.
8. HISTORY IN THE MAKING
Jasey-Jay Anderson will be competing at his sixth Winter Olympic Games — the most ever by a Canadian athlete — and will become the only person to compete in every snowboarding competition since it became an Olympic sport in 1998. Other athletes with a chance to make history in PyeongChang include Charles Hamelin (short track) and Denny Morrison (speed skating). Both of them have four career Olympic medals, two less than the record six won by Cindy Klassen and Clara Hughes. Hamelin needs one more to tie a record five won by short track speed skaters Marc Gagnon and Francois-Louis Tremblay.
8. FAMILY TIES
There are five sets of siblings on this year’s Canadian Olympic team: Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe, who won gold and silver in moguls at the Sochi Olympics; Candace and Jack Crawford (alpine skiing); Marielle (ski cross) and Broderick Thompson (alpine); Scott and Christian Gow (biathlon); and Charles and Francois Hamelin. There’s also a married couple, speed skaters Denny and Josie Morrison, and an engaged couple, Charles Hamelin and Marianne St-Gelais (short track).
9. MEN AND WOMEN FOR ALL SEASONS
Three members of Canada’s Olympic bobsleigh team also represented the country in athletics at the Summer Olympics: Bryan Barnett (Beijing 2008), Phylicia George (London 2012, Rio 2016) and Seyi Smith (London 2012). A fourth athlete, Georgia Simmerling, was ready to compete, but she broke both her legs in a ski cross World Cup last month. Ranked No. 4 in the World Cup standings before her injury, she competed in alpine skiing at the 2010 Olympics and won a bronze medal in cycling team pursuit at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Only five athletes have won medals at both a Summer and Winter Olympics, among them one Canadian: Clara Hughes. She has four medals in speed skating and two in cycling.
10. HOCKEY (WE HAD TO GET THERE AT SOME POINT)
Canada’s women’s team will be shooting for a record fifth Olympic title in a row. Only two other teams have won four in a row: the Soviet men’s team (1964-1976) and Canada’s men’s team (1920-1932, with the first coming at a Summer Olympics). Canada’s men’s team, meanwhile, will be trying for a third-straight title in South Korea, which hasn’t been done on the men’s side since those 1976 Soviets.
11. HOCKEY (JUST ONE MORE THING)
The men’s hockey competition is missing NHL players for the first time since the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer. In the five Olympics since NHL players joined the five-ring action, Canada won gold three times (2002, 2010, 2014), with Sweden (2006) and the Czech Republic (1998) taking the other two titles. Prior to that? Canada hadn’t won gold since 1952, settling for silver three times over those 11 Games (1994, 1992, 1960) and bronze twice (1968, 1956). For the bulk of that period, of course, it was a completely different era: the Soviet Union still existed, Soviet players stayed at home rather than joining the NHL, and the country fielded predominantly pro athletes against amateurs from other countries.
12. WHICH LEADS US TO RUSSIA
The question for months has been: will they or won’t they compete in PyeongChang? It turns out they will, or at least many of them will. This is despite the findings of the McLaren report that 1,000 Russian athletes, or so, benefited from a state-sponsored doping program from 2012-2015. That program is alleged to have involved both the administering of substances and a massive cover-up, including the manipulation of samples. The International Olympic Committee set up its own commission after the McLaren report was released to look at individual cases and in turn banned Russia — and most of its officials — from competing in 2018. While more than 40 Russian athletes also were banned as a result of the investigation, the IOC said it would allow athletes who can prove they are clean to compete as an “Olympic Athlete from Russia” rather than under their country’s flag. Last month, the Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned 28 of those lifetime bans, while partially upholding the appeals of 11 others. Russia has announced a team of 169 for these Olympics, although that number could grow given the CAS ruling. That’s just eight fewer athletes than it had in Vancouver eight years ago. Russia was banned from competing at both the 2016 and 2018 Paralympic Games.
13. ON A BRIGHTER NOTE, HAVE YOU SEEN THE MASCOTS?
Who doesn’t remember the adorable foursome from Vancouver: Miga, Quatchi, MukMuk and Sumi. And those old enough can no doubt remember Hidy and Howdy from Calgary in 1988. Mascots are among the best-selling items at every Olympic and Paralympic Games, and the duo created for PyeongChang are pretty darn cute. The Olympic mascot, Soohorang, is a white tiger, Korea’s guardian animal. Bandabi, an Asiatic black bear, is the Paralympic mascot. The mascots were chosen in a public contest.
14. THERE’S A FIRST TIME FOR EVERYTHING
Three countries will be competing at the Winter Olympics for the first time: Nigeria, Eritrea and Ecuador. Seun Adigun, Akuoma Omeoga and Ngozi Onwumere will compete for Nigeria in women’s bobsleigh, while Simidele Adeagbo will compete in women’s skeleton. All four women grew up in the U.S. and competed in athletics. Alpine skier Shannon-Ogbani Abeda — who was born in Fort McMurray, Alta. and lives in Calgary — will compete for Eritrea in slalom and giant slalom. Cross-country skier Klaus Jungbluth Rodriguez will compete for Ecuador in in the men’s 15-km freestyle race. He was born in Ecuador, but lives and trains in Australia.
Alpine skier Shannon-Ogbani Abeda — who was born in Fort McMurray, Alta. and lives in Calgary — will compete for Eritrea in slalom and giant slalom.
15. HOME-FIELD ADVANTAGE
Host countries, with some exceptions, improve their medal totals: think China (2008), Vancouver (2010), Great Britain (2012), Russia (2014). There are various reasons for this. Host countries get to send a larger delegation. They get to compete in front of supportive crowds. They’re used to the environment, the culture, the food, the water. They don’t have to endure long flights. Most importantly, governments tend to invest heavily in amateur sport in advance of a home Games. That money helps. Canadians are still enjoying the impact of Own the Podium, implemented before the 2010 Olympics. And Russians are still feeling the fallout of their own particular state-sponsored program. But sometimes, countries do worse than they have previously: Turin (2006), Rio (2016). What can we expect for South Korea? Their best medal count was 14 in Vancouver (six gold, six silver, two bronze). Replicating that at home could be a challenge. Gracenote Sports, which predicts podium results for each Olympics, has them winning nine medals (six gold, three bronze), with five in short track, three in speed skating and one in men’s skeleton. If that skeleton prediction is accurate — and it could be, given Yun Sungbin is ranked No. 1 in the World Cup standings — that would be a huge accomplishment for the country. South Koreans have won 53 Winter Olympic medals since 1948, but they’ve come in just three sports: short track (42), speed skating (nine) and figure skating (two).
16. HOME IS ACTUALLY BIGGER THAN YOU THINK
Not all the events of the PyeongChang Olympics are being held in PyeongChang, a county in the province of Gangwon with a population of just under 44,000. All the ice events (hockey, curling, figure skating, speed skating, short track) will be held in the larger coastal city of Gangneung, which is home to about 230,000 people, while the alpine speed events will be held in Bukpyeong, in the neighbouring county of Jeongseon. This type of arrangement isn’t unusual. In 2010, for example, the ice events were held in Vancouver, extreme sports were staged at Cypress in West Vancouver, curling was in Richmond and all other events were held in Whistler. Unlike the last two Winter Olympics, where temperatures reached the mid-teens in Vancouver and low 20s in Sochi, these should look and feel like winter. Even on the coast, the average February temperature is below zero Celsius.
17. AND THEN THERE’S NORTH KOREA
Surprisingly, North Korea is sending 22 athletes to the Olympics. They’ll compete in alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, figure skating, short track and hockey — where 12 women will play on a unified team with the South Koreans. They’ll march in the opening ceremony under one “unification” flag. A 230-member cheer squad is also expected to cross the de-militarized zone that separates the two countries. North Koreans compete irregularly at the Winter Olympics, skipping Sochi, and have won just two medals: a silver in speed skating in 1964 and a bronze in short track in 1992. While it would be nice to think this delegation is really about sports, that is highly unlikely. According to reports out of North Korea, leader Kim Jong-un is planning to parade hundreds of missiles the day before the Olympics begin.
18. ONE FINAL LESSON: IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED …
PyeongChang tried to host the Winter Olympics twice, before finally beating out Munich, Germany and Annecy, France for the right to host the 2018 Games. They’d previously bid for 2010 (losing by three votes to Vancouver) and 2014 (losing by four votes to Sochi). The cost to stage the 2018 Olympics is a reported $13 billion, up from $6 billion in Vancouver but a huge decrease from the estimated $50 billion spent in Sochi.
THE EX-PRESS, February 5, 2018