The 2018 Winter Olympics are already upon us – and with it, a whole host of problems that may threaten to derail this year’s Games.
For South Korea – the announced host country of this year’s Games – 2018 will be its second time hosting the Olympics, the first being the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul. The Olympics will be held in a 17 day span between February 9 and February 25 that will feature 102 events in 15 sports, four of which are new to the Games – big air snowboarding, mixed doubles curling, mass start speed skating, and mixed team alpine skiing.
Despite there being less than two months before the start of the Games, however, South Korea is still struggling with problems related to the Pyeongchang Olympics – namely, sluggish ticket sales, as well as reports that it may be “too cold” for athletes and spectators during the actual events themselves. As of November 2017, it was reported that only 50% of tickets were yet sold for the 2018 Olympics – meanwhile, Pyeongchang is one of the coldest regions of South Korea, with temperatures projected to drop into the single digits by February.
These concerns are, of course, typical for an Olympic host, and indeed pale in comparison to the fiasco that occurred with preparations for 2016’s Rio Olympics. However, recent conflict with North Korea, which lies a mere 50 miles above the Olympic venues, have brought yet another issue to the table.
Both the United States and France have suggested that they would not send their athletes to the Games due to the North Korean threat, although the former has since retracted its statement. South Korean president Moon Jae-in has attempted to assuage fears about the Pyeongchang Olympics, although his words may have little effect; tourism as a whole has dropped in South Korea in 2017 as a possible consequence of this issue. Many experts, however, continue to assert that North Korea is unlikely to stage an attack on the Games, especially with two North Korean athletes – Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sies, both figure skaters – already participating in the Pyeongchang Olympics.
Another issue that may be of note is the International Olympic Committee’s decision to ban Russia from the 2018 Winter Olympics over a doping scandal. Although individual, “clean” athletes are still allowed to compete, the decision has resulted in numerous Russian politicians calling for a boycott of the Olympics and a likely drop in tourist spectators during the Games itself.
Despite these numerous issues, however, the chances are still high that South Korea will successfully host their first Winter Olympics. Many Olympics dogged by far worse problems than these have succeeded before; namely, the 2016 Rio Olympics or the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Perhaps by hosting a successful Olympics Games, South Korea can thaw relations with its mercurial northern neighbor and ultimately help to raise their international prestige.