The Winter Olympic Games are nearly upon us, and once they begin the world will look up to its athletes for two weeks as they attempt to reach the absolute pinnacle of their sport. And, because the 2018 Games are in South Korea, the athletes will worryingly look up to the sky every few moments.
Nuclear missiles aside, the commencement of the Winter Games brings me unrestricted joy. I love the spectacle, the patriotism, the triumph on the world’s greatest stage and developing a deep-seeded hatred for countries that I didn’t know existed.
I know nothing of Andorra, Eritrea, Timor-Leste, Togo and Kyrgyzstan, their people, culture, or even where they are located. But you better believe if they compete against Team USA, I’m going to have to try and find a way to hate them. A true Olympic tradition, then.
Another custom, at least one I adhere to, is not doing anything productive whatsoever during the two weeks or so while the Winter Games are held. During the Rio Games, it was somewhere near the medal round of water polo I realized the fibers of my clothes have been entwined with those of my couch. And I was desperately in need of a shower to wash off the approximate 13 pounds of food that accumulated in my beard.
Whether the sport is hockey, cross country skiing, bobsleigh, biathlon, figure skating or curling, my gaze will not be averted. I will cheer wildly for a magnificent, expertly placed shot in curling. And then I will quickly quiet myself after the commentator laments the shot’s horrible placement because I still quite haven’t figured out curling.
When we aren’t enamored with the games themselves, we will be treated to a host of storylines beyond the venues.
South and North Korea have agreed to field a unified women’s hockey team. In a show of unification, the team will march together during the opening ceremony with a flag representing a unified Korea. And then the North athletes will be subsequently jailed for defecting.
For the first time in five games, the NHL will not send players to the Winter Games. Here in the U.S., this means we now have dreams of young college players prevailing against the world’s best, like the Miracle on Ice in 1980. But a lack of NHL players means players must come out of retirement, so the winning country will likely be the one with the fewest heart attacks and broken hips during the games.
Due to the ongoing doping scandal, Russia has been banned from competition in Pyeongchang. At last check, some Russian athletes will be able to compete under the Olympic flag, but the committee will likely be watching these contestants closely. The Russian women are expected to shave their beards to not drum up suspicion.
I’m excited for the storylines, the games themselves and for the athletes that hope to rise to the top of the podium, overcome with emotion as their country’s anthem plays. Hopefully, it can be heard over the bomb sirens.