Feb 19th, 2018, 12:46 AM

2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics: South Korea Style

By Spence David
Image Credit: Brandon Schatsiek
The same event yet different in it's own way.

It is that time of year: the 2018 Winter Olympics are in full force in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The celebration began with the opening ceremony that was like no other. From North Korea and South Korea coming together to carry the torch and light the Olympic flame, to eye-catching entrances made by all of the teams with athletes from countries from all around the world, including memorable debuts of The United States team and Tonga.

This year North Korea and South Korea came together to compete under one flag. They proceeded to have one athlete from each of those countries light the Olympic torch to signify the beginning of the games. In the Korean spirit, Americans entered into the opening ceremony with the well-known song Gangnam Style playing in the background as the athletes took selfies in their custom Ralph Lauren heated jackets designed specifically for them. Tonga athlete, Pita Taufatofua carried his flag proudly, wearing no shirt, as the temperatures dropped down to the 20-degree range. The crowds went crazy.  Drones lit up the night sky. Although Intel’s plan of flying 300 live drones had to be put on hold, a prerecorded drone lighting display thrilled the audience instead.

Image Credit: Flickr/Republic of Korea

The crowd was intrigued as South Korea decided to replace flowers at the winner’s podium with a little stuffed white tiger which is one of the mascots for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. The South Korean mascot, a beloved emoji-like white stuffed tiger named Soohorang has great symbolic meaning in the South Korean culture.

“Sooho” means “protecting guardian and world peace” in the Korean culture and “rang” from the word “horangi” is the Korean word that stands for “Tiger.” The stuffed white tiger represents strength, protection, and trust in Korean folklore. Korean designers incorporated colorful paper flowers flowing from the hat of Soohorang given to the athletes. Before the winning athletes receive their medals for their event, they are given the stuffed animal to pose with on the podium and later during the day the athletes are presented with their medal at a joint ceremony. The mascot Soohorang has become loved throughout the Olympic village among athletes and guests.

Image Credit: Flickr/Republic of Korea

So far having the Olympics in South Korea has caused problems mostly because of the weather. Because of the location of Pyeongchang, they have had all of the skiing and luge events in the mountains and the figure skating, curling and speed skating miles away in Gangneung. The weather has not been cooperative. As predicted, high winds has caused havoc with gusts reaching up to 40 miles per hour. These poor weather conditions have delayed events such as downhill skiing and snowboarding and have also caused a mess down below in the Olympic village with concession tents and barriers blowing away and becoming safety hazard for guests and athletes alike. South Korea hosting their first Winter Olympics is shaping up to be one of the coldest Winter Olympics in history.

Image Credit: Flickr/Anton Diaz

The same weather conditions that have affected the sporting events are also taking a toll on the special visual performances that South Korea is trying to put on for their daily drone light shows at the nightly medal ceremonies.  Finally, at last Thursday night’s medal ceremony, the winds died down, allowing the drone show to take place. The spectacular display included a lighted rendition of the Olympic Rings, a curler, a snowboarder, a figure skater and of course, the mascot Soohorang.  

Image Credit: Flickr/Special Olympics 2017

The 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics have proven to be a new experience for both athletes and viewers. The gold, silver, and bronze medal winners of each event are going home with a piece of history that is undeniably South Korean. The games provide excitement not only in the sporting events but in the cultural experiences of trying unique foods, different cocktails or spirits, listening to new music popular in the country, and trying on traditional  Korean wears.

 Keep up with the rest of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games coverage on NBC until February 25th, 2018.