COUNTDOWN TO KOREA
Thirty things to know with 30 days to go before Pyeongchang Olympics,
The Winter Olympics in South Korea are just 30 days away and, for a change, there aren’t any major forecasts of doom and gloom emanating from the host country.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump have been bragging about their nuclear buttons, but the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics can hardly be held responsible for that. As far as the Games themselves go, they seem to have been the cause for a major diplomatic icebreaker on the Korean Peninsula, with the North talking to the South for the first time in years and agreeing to send a delegation to the Olympics.
And the sport venues actually look ready for competition.
Could it be that the 2018 Olympics really have landed in one of the best communities in the world? That’s what locals are pitching with their Happy 700 campaign.
Pyeongchang — which lies 130 kilometres east of the capital Seoul, and just 80 kilometres south of the heavily militarized border between North and South Korea — sits at an average altitude of 700 metres above sea level. And 700 metres, states the local tourism brochure, is “the best altitude for human biorhythm.”
There have been numerous references to this healthy altitude in recent years with Korean officials touting how optimal it is for human life, raising animals and growing crops. Plenty of companies have used the slogan to sell products.
There was a time that living up a mountain, rather than in a valley, would have been advantageous for protecting villages. And seven is considered a lucky number, so 700 is luckier than, say, 600 or 800, explains Thomas Klassen, a York University political science professor with a research interest in South Korea.
“If you live at the 700 altitude the air pressure is just going to be perfect — it’s been around as a belief and the Olympic committee played up on it,” he says. “There’s no science to it.” If there was, there might be a Canadian exodus to Medicine Hat, Alta., or Ontario’s highest point, Ishpatina Ridge, some 90 kilometres north of Sudbury, both of which are about 700 metres about sea level.
“Cool that they’re pumping up that they live at 700 metres — maybe there’s a placebo effect,” says Greg Wells, an exercise physiologist at the University of Toronto.
Athletes in the skiing, snowboarding and sliding sports who come from low-lying areas might feel a slight difference for a few days, he says.
“If you’re not from Calgary (which sits at over 1,000 metres) and you’re going there, the lower pressure of the air drives less oxygen into the body so it just takes a little while for your body to adapt and absorb the same amount of oxygen that it would at sea level,” Wells says.
“Typically, that takes three to five days.
“It’s a micro-factor for athletes. It’s not going to be anything like at high altitudes but it’s a one-per-cent factor and probably something that’s worth thinking about.”
Here are 30 other things to know with 30 days to go:
The 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics run Feb. 9-25, officially. But competition actually starts a day earlier on the 8th.
South Korea is 14 hours ahead of Toronto.
CBC plans to air 17 hours of daily Olympic coverage starting at 7 p.m. ET and running until noon.
A2018 Canadian Olympic team fan guide, profiling the sports and highlighting Canada’s Winter Games history, will be on newsstands across Canada mid-to-late January.
After two balmy Winter Olympics — 2010 Vancouver and 2014 Sochi — this one should see real winter conditions with average lows in the mountain venues expected to dip below -10C.
The opening and closing ceremonies are being held in a 35,000-seat open-air stadium and organizers plan to provide spectators with a raincoat, blanket and heating pads to combat the cold.
The Nigerian women’s bobsled team qualified for the Games, marking the first time a bobsled team from the continent of Africa will compete at the Olympics.
Russia is still in, mostly. As punishment from the IOC for running a massive doping regime that undermined at least two Olympics, athletes who are cleared by a special testing panel won’t wear traditional Russian uniforms, but rather ones that say Olympic Athlete from Russia.
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump have been taunting each other over their nuclear capabilities. Trump’s Twitter missive: “I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!”
North and South Korea are, technically, still at war since no peace treaty was signed after the Korean War ended in1953. North Korea boycotted the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics.
North Korea has agreed to send athletes and officials to February’s Olympics. Figure skating pair Kim Ju Sik and Ryom Tae Ok are the only North Korean athletes who have qualified but the International Olympic Committee has said others could receive wild-card entries.
The North Koreans skate to a Canadian song, “Je ne suis qu’une chanson,” meaning “I am but a song,” performed by Quebec singer Ginette Reno.
South Korea and the United States have agreed to halt joint military exercises during the Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games, which run March 8-18.
The Olympic host city has long been named Pyeongchang but organizers have suggested the spelling PyeongChang to further distinguish it from the North Korean capital Pyongyang.
Canada’s medal hopes are strong with Canadians currently ranked second in World Cup standings, behind Germany and ahead of the U.S.
According to one recent medal prediction, Canada is set to win 33 medals — 7 gold, 12 silver and 14 bronze — and finish third in the overall medal table.
That would be more medals but fewer gold than last time when Canadians won 25 medals — 10 gold, 10 silver and 5 bronze — at the 2014 Sochi Games. (That number should go up by at least one with the addition of a bronze luge medal in team relay since the Russians were recently stripped of their medal for doping).
Several Canadian defending gold medallists will be competing, including bobsledder Kaillie Humphries, moguls skier Justine Dufour-Lapointe, short track speed skater Charles Hamelin and the women’s hockey team.
The NHL decided its players couldn’t go to the Pyeongchang Games, so it will be much harder for Canada to win the gold in men’s hockey than it was at the last two editions.
South Korea is more dominant in summer sports but it has won 53 Winter Olympic medals, with all but two of them in speed skating.
North Korea is also better at summer sports and has won just two Winter Olympic medals, both in women’s speed skating, with a 1964 silver in long track and a 1992 bronze in short track. It sent no athletes to the 2014 Sochi Games.
A total of 2,900 athletes from 95 countries are expected to compete. That’s far fewer than compete at the Summer Games, which attract more than 11,000 athletes from more than 200 countries.
There are 102 medal events, the most ever at a Winter Games.
The are four new Olympic events: big air snowboarding, mass-start long-track speed skating, alpine team ski and mixed doubles curling. They’re all shorter, more action packed and TV-friendly versions of existing Olympic events and part of the IOC’s desire to attract younger audiences.
The Olympic medals were created by celebrated designer Lee Suk Woo, who incorporated Hangeul, the Korean alphabet, into the design.
The gold medals weigh 586 grams, which would mean they’d be worth nearly $25,000 each if they were made of pure gold. They’re not. They’re made of silver and plated with six grams of gold.
Instead of flowers during their podium ceremony, medallists will be given a small Games mascot — a stuffed white tiger named Soohorang — wearing a gold, silver or bronze hat and wooden gift featuring mountain scenes of Pyeongchang.
On the final day of the last two Winter Olympics, there wasn’t a single women’s medal event. This time, there are an equal number of men’s and women’s events.
But there’s still only one women’s event in bobsled and ski jumping while the men have two on the last day.
Curling fans rejoice: It’s the one sport which begins the day before the opening ceremony and ends on the final day of the Games, making it the only sport to be contested every single day.