The Olympic flame that lighted the sky of PyeongChang, the venue of the 2018 Winter Olympics, for a 19-day-long run, went out in the night of Feb. 25. Athletes and spectators bid farewell to the PyeongChang Olympics, which had people around the globe glued to the sports extravaganza. The next iteration is four years from now at the Beijing Winter Olympics.
The PyeongChang Olympics will be remembered as the largest in the history of the Winter Olympics, as 2,920 athletes from 92 countries competed for 102 gold medals. It was the first-ever Winter Olympics with more than 100 gold medals. The 2018 Winter Olympics will also be remembered for the President Moon Jae-in government’s diplomatic efforts to engage North Korea and improve inter-Korean ties. Moon seized the Olympiad as an opportunity to pave the way for talks between North Korea and the United States on denuclearization.
Korea won a silver medal each in the women’s curling final and in the four-seat bobsleigh completion on the final day. The medals were the first for Korea in the two sporting events. Lee Seung-hoon became the first champion of men’s speedskating mass start, while Kim Bo-reum won a silver medal in women’s speedskating mass start.
Korea grabbed five gold, eight silver, and four bronze medals to rank 7th in the overall medal standing.
The 17 medals Korea won during PyeongChang Olympics was the most-ever, besting the 14 medals of the 2010 Vancouver Olympics ― six gold, six silver and two bronze medals. Korea proved to be strong in short track competitions with Choi Min-jung, the first Korean double-gold medalist, as well as speedstaking.
Korea made a strong showing in bobsleigh, skeleton, curling and snowboarding, diversifying its medal portfolio to set up platforms for new disciplines.
Choi Min-jung, the first Korean double-gold medalist, competes in a short track event.
Captain Kim Eun-jung of the Korean women’s curling team throws the stone during the final competition with Sweden, who won the gold medal. (Photos: POCOG)
Korea women’s curling team made their way to the final, in which they ended up winning a silver medal. There was also a surprising victory by skeleton gold medalist Yoon Sung-bin. Norway finished first in the overall medal table by grabbing 14 gold, 14 silver and 11 bronze medals, followed by Germany, which won 14 gold, 10 silver and seven bronze medals.
The PyeongChang Olympics was evaluated as the most successful Olympiad in terms of all metrics, including operation, ticket sales and sports records.
Winning gold medals in short track competitions and skeleton early in the Olympiad helped arouse national public attention and boost ticket sales over the target of selling 1.06 million game tickets. Accumulating paid spectators surpassed 1.14 million people as of Feb. 23. Revenues from ticket sales surged to 150 billion won.
In terms of operation and popularity, the Winter Olympics have been a resounding success. IOC President Bach was quoted as saying that the PyeongChang Olympics opened new horizons. The Olympiad attracted 2,920 athletes from 92, including places like Nigeria, Malaysia, Singapore, Eritrea, Ecuador and Kosovo, who all made their maiden appearance on the Winter Olympic stage. President Lee Hee-beom of the PyeongChang Organizing Committee said, “Even though final calculations has yet to be made, it may be possible to achieve a profit-making Olympics as targeted.”
The total budget for the Olympiad amounted to about 14.2 trillion won. The expenditure for the operating of the Olympics, except the costs for the construction of KTX, expressway, sport facilities and other infrastructure, stood at 2.8 trillion won, so the organizers forecast a 300 billion won deficit.
But President Lee said the patronage by public entities and companies surged to 1.112 trillion won, representing 118 percent of the targeted amount, and additional revenues rose thanks to efforts to secure more financial support from the IOC and Olympic patronage partners.
In addition, Lee said “Olympic fever” fueled ticket and license product sales, heightening expectations on a profitable Olympics. Such proprietary products as the official mascot Suhorang toy and heart-shaped glove became sales hits.
South and North Koreas entered the Olympic Stadium under the Unification Flag during the opening ceremony in what was dubbed “Olympic detente” and fielded a unified women’s ice hockey team. North Korea dispatched a high-level delegation, led by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister Kim Yo-jong, his special envoy, an athletic team, a cheerleading group, and a performance troupe during the Olympiad. Kim Yo-jong delivered an invitation to President Moon to Pyongyang for summit talks at a meeting with Cheong Wa Dae.
President Moon Jae-in and IOC President Thomas Barch wave their hands and other VIPs, including U.S. President Trump’s first daughter Ivanka Trump, clap during the closing ceremony of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympiad.
The PyeongChang Olympics attracted many VIPs, including U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, during the opening ceremony, and U.S. President Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, for the closing ceremony.
“We hope now the political world will use this momentum for a dialogue because it is up the politicians,” International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach was quoted as saying on Feb. 25.
But the Olympic detente failed to materialize as North Korea canceled the North Korean special envoy’s prepared meeting with U.S. Vice President Pence at the last minute on the sidelines of the Olympiad. North Korean chief delegate Kim Yong-chol, vice chairman of the ruling Workers’ Party Central Committee, participated in the closing ceremony, but he had no interaction with Ivanka Trump, who was seated near him in the front row. Earlier, President Moon had an hour-long meeting with Kim in which he said North Korea expressed willingness to hold talks with the United States. Kim’s trip caused an uproar from the opposition Liberty Korea Party and conservatives for his alleged involvement in North Korea’s sinking of a South Korean warship.
It remains to be seen whether President Moon’s diplomatic efforts to engage North Korea, which have now failed to produce tangible outcomes, will pay off in some way. It could lead to talks between the reclusive regime and the United States on denuclearization, or North Korea might continue its provocative acts via nuclear and missile tests.
On Feb. 23, the U.S. administration announced new sanctions, seeking a United Nations ban on 33 vessels from ports and 27 shipping businesses, to prevent North Korea’s circumventing of sanctions.
The move is the part of the U.S. campaign to ramp up international pressure to force North Korea to give up its nuclear arms and missile programs.