A week from now, South Korea’s PyeongChang will witness a winter carnival……a carnival of sports where 95 teams from across the world will show their mettle, perform their best and celebrate sportsmanship. It is the 23rd Winter Olympic Games, a major international sporting event organized by International Olympic Committee (IOC) held once every four years for sports practiced on snow and ice.
VENUE OF WINTER OLYMPICS 2018
Pyeongchang won the bid to host 2018 Winter Olympics in the 123rd IOC Session in Durban in 2011. It will be the third Asian city to host the Winter Games after Japan twice hosted the occasion, first at Sapporo in 1972 and then at Nagano in 1998. The Games are to be held around three venues.
The Alpensia Resort in Daegwallyeong-myeon will be main venue for the outdoor sports. Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium will host the Opening and Closing Ceremony, Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre will be for Ski Jumping, Alpensia Biathlon Centre will host Biathlon event, Alpensia Cross Country Centre will have Cross-country Skiing, Alpensia Sliding Centre will host Luge, Bobsleigh and Yongpyong Alpine Centre will see the Alpine Skiing events comprising of Slalom and Giant Slalom.
The coastal city of Gangneung is chosen for the indoor sports. Its Olympic Park have Hockey Centre for Men’s Ice hockey, Curling Centre for Curling, Oval for Speed Skating and Ice Arena for Short-track Speed Skating and Figure Skating.
Other than these, there are three stand-alone venues- Bokwang Snow Park for Freestyle Skiing and Snowboard, Jeongseon Alpine Centre for Alpine Skiing comprising of Downhill, Super-G and Combined and Kwandong Hockey Centre for Women’s Ice Hockey.
EVENTS OF WINTER OLYMPICS 2018
This year’s Games is the first Winter Olympics to surpass 100 medal events. There will be 102 events in 15 sports, with the introduction of four new disciplines- Big Air Snowboarding, Mixed Doubles Curling, Mass Start Speed Skating, and Mixed Team Alpine Skiing. Speed Skating has 14 medal events followed by Alpine Skiing, Biathlon and Freestyle Skiing. While the first two have 11 medal events, Freestyle Skiing has 10.
TEAMS PARTICIPATING IN WINTER OLYMPICS 2018
On 9th February, when 95 teams will participate in the Opening March Past, world will see North Korea and South Korea marching together under the Korean Unification Flag. A Unified Korea women’s ice hockey team will also compete under a separate IOC Country Code Designation (COR). As the IOC has suspended the Russian Olympic Committee for doping controversy, individual Russian athletes who qualified for the Games will compete as Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) under a neutral flag and with the Olympic anthem played in any ceremony. Apart from this, Ecuador, Eritrea, Kosovo, Malaysia, Nigeria and Singapore will make their Winter Olympics debut this year.
SOOHORANG-MASCOT OF WINTER OLYMPICS 2018
On 2nd June 2016, the IOC Executive Board approved a white tiger named Soohorang as the mascot for the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Games. The white tiger is considered as the guardian animal in Korean culture and is a symbol of trust, strength and protection. The name also has a strong Korean significance. ‘Sooho’ is the Korean word for ‘protection’ and ‘Rang’ is derived from the Korean word ‘ho-rang-I’ means ‘tiger’. Soohorang made his first international appearance at the Rio Summer Olympics in 2016. Later, he made an extensive tour throughout his native country and is a big hit even before the start of the Games.
So with teams ready, athletes prepared and spectator waiting for a successful event, Pyeongchang is ready to embrace one and all. But before the start of this mega event, let us look back at the history of Winter Olympic Games that came into existence in 1924.
HISTORY OF WINTER OLYMPICS
On 25th January 1924, the first Winter Olympics commenced at picturesque Chamonix in south-eastern part of France. The event was a part of ‘International Winter Sports Week’ under the patronage of the IOC. With more than 250 athletes from 16 nations, the Games was a huge success.
But some 22 years prior to this officially recognized Games, the first organized international competition involving winter sports was staged at Stockholm in Sweden by General Viktor Gustaf Balck. It was given the name Nordic Games where only Scandinavian countries competed. Balck was a charter member of IOC and also a close friend of Olympic Games founder Pierre de Coubertin. He attempted to have some disciplines of winter sports in the Olympics but remained unsuccessful. However, in 1908, Balck’s proposal was accepted and for the first time, Figure Skating was involved in the fixture of Summer Olympics in London. But the event has to wait for the onset of winters and was thus held some three months after the Games got over.
Three years later, in 1911, the Italian count Eugenio Brunetta d’Usseaux proposed to the IOC to stage a separate winter competition for the 1912 Stockholm Games. But Sweden, opposed this idea in order to protect the popularity and integrity of the Nordic Games. The idea to showcase some winter sports in Olympics was revived and it was decided that in the 1916 Berlin Olympics Games Speed Skating, Figure Skating, Ice Hockey and Nordic Skiing would be staged. But as the 1916 Olympics was cancelled after the outbreak of World War I, the development of Winter Games remained in shadow.
At the first Olympics after the war in 1920 at Antwerp, Figure Skating and Ice Hockey featured. Soon after, an agreement was reached between the IOC and the Scandinavians to stage the International Winter Sports Week at Chamonix. And thus, the first Winter Olympics came into existence. Finland and Norway swept the table by winning 28 medals which was more than the rest of the participating nations combined.
EMINENT WINTER ATHLETES
Since then, the Winter Olympics has steadily rose to fame. Alpine Skiing, Luge, Short-track Speed Skating, Freestyle Skiing, Skeleton and Snowboarding are the permanent disciplines of the Games. However, disciplines like military patrol has been discontinued. There are Curling and Bobsleigh, which were once discontinued but later reintroduced. The key element of an Olympic is its athletes and the Games that started with 250 athletes now has almost 3000 athletes competing.
There are many legendary names who have graced the Games. Ole Einar Bjorndalen is the most medaled Olympian in the history of the Winter Olympic Games with 13 medals. Ole, the ‘King of Biathlon’, hails from Norway. The Scandinavian athletes have dominated the medal table; the reason being their natural ability to persist in the wilderness of cold. They are born winter athletes and thus, two other Norwegians, Bjorn Daehlie and Marit Bjorgen follow Ole closely. Both are Cross Country Skiing athletes and won 12 and 10 medals respectively for their country.
INDIAN PARTICIPATION IN WINTER GAMES
India first competed at the Winter Olympic in the 1964 Innsbruck Games, Austria. Alpine skier Jeremy Bujakowski, a Poland-born Indian citizen, became the first person ever to represent India at the Games. However, his maiden tryst with the Winter Olympics ended when he suffered a serious accident that left him with a broken back, a
fractured leg and internal haemorrhages. But Jerry came back strongly in 1968 participating in the Downhill, Slalom, and Giant Slalom events of Alpine Skiing. After Jeremy Bujakowski’s participation, it took 20 years for India to again send athletes to the Winter Olympics. It was in 1988 at Calgary in Canada, Slalom skier Gul Dev and Kishor Rahtna Rai represented India. It was in this year Shailaja Kumar became the first woman to compete for India in the Winter Olympic Games. In 1992 Olympics in Albertville, France, Nanak Chand and Lal Chuni competed in the Men’s Slalom and Giant Slalom events in Alpine Skiing.
In 1998 at Nagano, Japan, India returned to the Winter Games after missing the 1994 Olympics. It was from this year that our most decorated winter athlete, Shiva Keshavan started representing India in the Winter Olympics. Luge athlete, Keshavan was only 16 when he made his Olympic debut. He finished 28th in the men’s individual event but his dedication was much talked about. Though, he was the only representative of the nation in 1998 and 2002, he was accompanied by Neha Ahuja and Hira Lal in Alpine Skiing and Bahadur Gupta in Cross Country Skiing in 2006.
In 2010 Vancouver Games, Jamyang Namgial represented India in Alpine Skiing and Tashi Lundup participated in Cross Country Skiing. This year, after his persistent showing in the Games, Shiva Keshavan first received any government support to represent in the Games. But the next Olympics at Sochi 2014, saw the worst of Keshavan. Firstly, the Indian contingent has to represent under the flag of Independent Olympic Participant as the nation was then suspended by the IOA. Secondly, it was Keshavan’s worst performance in Olympics as he finished 37th in the race. Himanshu Thakur and Nadeem Iqbal represented in Alpine Skiing and Cross Country Skiing respectively that year.
This year at Pyeongchang, Jagdish Singh will be there to accompany Shiva Keshavan. It will be Keshavan’s sixth Olympic appearance. None other Indian athlete, apart from tennis great Leander Paes, has represented India so many times in the Olympics. But to match Paes, he must have an Olympic medal round his neck. Who else knows it better than Shiva himself? At 36, it is perhaps his last Olympics and we all hope that he finishes in style.
Read Shiva Keshavan’s story https://www.sportsavour.com/meet-shiva-keshavan-manali-boy-ready-slide-luge-6th-olympics/
Read about Indian winter athlete Aanchal Thakur https://www.sportsavour.com/aanchal-thakur-wins-first-international-medal-skiing-india/