Hey guys…the 2018 Winter Olympics started yesterday (although the opening ceremony isn't until tomorrow). Yeah, we know you’re all like, “Dude, we’re in Colorado. We’re kind of winter sports-ed out.” OK, that’s fair. But, have you seen I, Tonya?! If so, you’d realize that the Winter Olympics, and the Olympics in general, are so much more than just the sports themselves. Need we remind you of Ryan Lochte, for goodness sake? Or this gift of a meme of Michael Phelps’ game face? The point is, the Olympics are a culture factory of seemingly insignificant but often times hilarious memes—and, of course, unfiltered moments of raw human beauty (we know that isn’t technically from the Olympics, but it gives us so much joy that we had to include it somehow). So, dear readers: dust off your optimist snowshoes, and read on for some of the reasons to be excited about this year’s Winter Olympics.
You live in Colorado, so you probably know someone competing.
Well, “probably” may be a bit of a stretch, but with Colorado sending 35 athletes to the Winter Olympics (unsurprisingly more than any other state), it’s not that crazy to think you might know someone going. Realistically, even if you’re not friends with an athlete, you may have rubbed shoulders with one or two after a day of sloping at, say, Gold Pan Saloon in Breck. If you’re one to fancy a trip to Colorado Springs, that number probably goes up exponentially given that the flagship U.S. Olympic Training Center is there (though weirdly, they focus mostly on summer sports). Plus, with Big Air—easily the gnarliest of all the shreds—added to this year’s Olympic roster, there’s a particularly high chance that you’ve at least been told to “Get out of the way!” by an Olympian when you foolishly thought you had what it takes to try something wild.
South Korea is extremely adorable, and K-pop is all the rage.
With the 2018 Winter Olympics being historically low-selling compared to previous years (thanks, Kim), South Korea is pulling out a few tried and true tricks to attract people’s attention—and yep, they succeeded in attracting ours. First of all, they’ve added a mascot to the equation in the form of an extremely adorable endangered species, a double whammy both in terms of Internet appeal (here’s looking at you, Reddit) and broader empathy. After all, it takes a truly cold-hearted monster to hate on a cartoonified white tiger with a perma-grin. Second, they’ve harnessed their country’s best asset—K-pop—to bestow upon us an androgynous man whose seraphim voice could make anyone turn on the cross-country skiing prelims at 2am on a Saturday. As an attempt to lure some young eyes, South Korea has enlisted K-pop band Wanna One’s Kang Daniel as an honorary ambassador for the event. For the uninitiated, K-pop is an extremely big deal, so this is quite the statement from South Korea. We’d be lying if we said we knew anything about Wanna One or the true impact of this move, but we’d also be lying if we said that we haven’t been listening to Wanna One songs nonstop since sitting down to write this blog. By God, those songs are catchy.
Russia is banned…again.
Russia is extremely good at the Olympics. Like, borderline America good (U-S-A!). You might recall, however, that the 2016 Summer Olympics omitted over 100 Russian athletes for a widespread doping campaign. It was a big deal, and now, two years removed, Russian athletes—all of them—are banned once again. That’s right: Russia has NO athletes at the Olympics. Why? Well, some of it obviously stems from the doping (thanks to a pretty stellar Netflix documentary, it seems the Russian doping thing was one seriously organized affair). However, news broke earlier this week that the IOC (International Olympic Committee) has refused to even hear Russia’s request to reinstate 15 athletes who have been cleared. So, what does this all mean? Perhaps that all trust in Russia is gone? Perhaps that the IOC is throwing the Russian baby out with the Russian bathwater, so to speak? Either way, it’s a curious narrative that you’re bound to hear a lot about—and it’s going to be interesting to see what exactly comes of it.
It might be the only thing holding the world together right now.
As mentioned earlier (see our K-pop/adorable mascot paragraph), the Winter Olympics are in South Korea this year—PyeongChang, to be exact. Sound familiar? Actually, you’ve probably never heard of it until now, but you’ve definitely heard of its phonetically-similar sister city to the north, Pyongyang—the capital of North Korea. And they’re not just close in name; PyeongChang is only 60 miles south of the famous Korean Demilitarized Zone, arguably the world’s most hostile border with (inarguably) the world’s most hostile country. However, for reasons that we can’t quite wrap our heads around, North Korea is not only sending athletes to the Olympic Games in its mortal adversary’s native land, but North Korea and South Korea are marching together in the opening ceremony under one unified Korean flag. The cynic in us thinks this might be some sort of clever ploy, but the overwhelming optimist in us sees this as a powerful gesture of friendship, and an unexpected breakthrough in what has been a solid year of semi-real threats of nuclear attack. So, let’s cross our fingers as Korea and Korea hang out, and hopefully start to mend a broken relationship in a part of the world that is causing the rest of us a great deal of stress. (Hey, we said we were feeling optimistic.)