|▲ Yun Sung-bin with his Skeleton gold medal. Photo courtesy Korea.net via Flickr.com
With the PyeongChang Winter Games set to come to an end with the closing ceremony this weekend, it can be said that, for the most part, the Olympics have been a great success.
The opening ceremony was beautifully crafted. It displayed some of the most pristine aspects of Korean culture and history, while also demonstrating how far the country has come in today’s modern times.
The spirit of competition has been high, and the host nation has discovered new heroes to cheer for. Lim Hyo-jun, Choi Min-jeong, Yun Sung-bin, and most recently the ladies 3,000-meter short track speed skating relay team have all found their way to the top of the podium.
There is also no question that the level of sportsmanship at these Games has been something to behold, maintaining its presence across all sports at these Olympics.
The best example that comes to mind is following the conclusion of the women’s 500-meter speed skating final, in which Lee Sang-hwa fell just short of Olympic history in her quest to become the first female speed skater to win in the same discipline at three different Olympics. Her time of 37.33 seconds was just behind the time set by Japanese skater Nao Kodaira, who took the gold in an Olympic record time of 36.94 seconds.
Realizing it would probably be her last Olympics, as she had been battling a left knee injury while training for the Games, she burst into tears. However, Nao Kodaira comforted her on the rink and then the two skaters made a lap of honor around the oval together, draped in their respective flags.
However, some of the passion shown at these Games from fans and even athletes has been very unfortunately misdirected.
When Choi Min-jeong was adjudged to have committed a penalty by the judges in the women’s 500-meter short track final, in which Canada’s Kim Boutin won a bronze medal, the Canadian skater drew the ire of some Koreans around the country. She even received death threats and was accused of cheating.
Thankfully for Boutin, she managed to get past the incident en route to a second bronze medal in the women’s 1,500 meters, where Choi won the gold.
In another incident, in the ladies team pursuit, the Korean team failed to qualify for the semi-finals of the event. This meant that they will not be in contention for a medal, but will instead skate in the classification bracket. However, the controversy came in the way the athletes finished the race, as two of the skaters crossed the finish line at the same time, with the third being left behind.
In a press conference after the race, Kim Bo-reum, likely the lead skater in the trio was quoted as saying “We practiced a lot for the Olympics and our midway race was quite good. As you saw it, the racer was far behind us and the gap had become even wider as we neared the finish line...I regret our record.”
She didn’t refer to her teammate by name, while the third skater Noh, cried after the race and declined to be interviewed.
It’s rather unfortunate that events such as these had to happen at the Games here, the first time Korea has ever hosted a Winter Olympics and also marking thirty years since South Korea hosted the Summer Games in Seoul in 1988.
The whole purpose of such a prestigious event is that it provides an opportunity for the host nation to present itself to the rest of the world, while embracing those who wish to partake in the endeavor.
Nonetheless, it should be noted that in all certainty, any negativity associated with the Games in Pyeongchang will hopefully not override the splendor which the world has witnessed in the past two weeks.
Sunday will mark the end of a remarkable journey, and then it will be on to Beijing in four years time.
When all is taken into consideration, both Pyeongchang and Korea have a lot to be proud of. The sights, scenes and sounds of these Games have been felt nationwide, and, when the torch is put out at the closing ceremony, the peninsula will conclude another chapter in Olympic history.