Here is a thing you may not have known: the 2018 Winter Olympics are starting this week. No. Wait. Sorry. I’m being told the Games have already begun.
The Opening Ceremony won’t air until Friday, but you’ve probably noticed there hasn’t been as much attendant buildup surrounding the Pyeongchang Games as we’ve seen in Olympics past. (True story: I was channel-surfing last night and stumbled across mixed doubles curling like it was a rerun of The Big Bang Theory.)
There’s a number of possible reasons for this apparent Olympics ennui—the 14-hour time difference, the looming spectre of North Korea, the taint of yet another Russian doping scandal, the NHL refusing to let its athletes take a winter break this year, plus the fact that the news cycle has become more concentrated than ever, squeezing every story into an increasingly tighter window of available air time.1 Also, uh, Roll Up the Rim is back?
But the Olympics are officially here for the next two and a half weeks, and it’s about time we all got appropriately excited about it. Here’s 15 good reasons to get amped up about the return of the quadrennial winter affair.
It gives us something to root for in February.
The NFL season is wrapped up. Spring training games are still weeks away. The NHL trade deadline isn’t until the end of the month. Meanwhile, NBA All-Stars are getting taken out one after the other like they’re extras in a John Wick movie. These are lean days for sports fans, and the Olympics offers us the chance to get intensely invested in a whole new wide range of sports we only have to care about for a few weeks once every four years.
Someone’s about to become Canada’s new national hockey hero.
Yes, it’s bullshit that Canada’s Olympic club went from Dream Team to The Replacements thanks to some world-class shortsightedness on behalf of the NHL. But try to see the silver lining here – while the decision may have robbed hockey fans of the chance to see household names skating for Team Canada, it also means someone other than Sidney Crosby is going to get the chance to play their way into legend status for once.
There’s going to be even more curling.
The IOC didn’t add any new sports to the Winter Olympics docket for 2018, but it did add a new medal opportunity in curling, with the mixed doubles tourney. So if you love watching curling (and we know you do), now you get to see even more of it.
There’s already drama.
Go ahead and adjust the leaderboard, because we’ve already got our first Olympic controversies: a contested coin flip to determine the U.S. flagbearer. An “incident” between Russia and Canada in the Olympic village cafeteria. And another over a free cell phone giveaway. Oh, and in case that wasn’t enough, there’s also a massive norovirus outbreak, and we’re not even a full 24 hours into the festivities yet.
North and South Korea are making history.
For the first time in Olympic history, the two nations will enter a joint team into the women’s hockey tournament, while athletes from the North and South will march together under one flag during tomorrow’s opening ceremonies in a display of sportsmanship that – all cynicism aside – reminds us what these games are supposed to be about.
There’s more medals than ever this year.
A record 102 medals are set to be given out across 15 different sports. And more medals means more opportunities for Team Canada to clean up on the podium.
The medals are Insta-worthy.
Designed by South Korea’s Lee Suk-woo, this year’s gold, silver and bronze are etched with diagonal lines meant to symbolize tree trunks. Also, they (hopefully) won’t fall apart or stain like the 2016 Rio medals.
Speed skating is about to get even more insane.
Speed skating is already kind of nuts, but the IOC added something called “mass start speed skating” for 2018, and it’s exactly what it sounds like—with up to 24 skaters jockeying for position on the oval for 16 laps. It’s basically roller derby on ice skates.
Skeleton is already crazy enough.
You know the drill: it’s like luge, only headfirst. Which, no thanks. But this year, the sport’s given us a new reason to watch through our fingers, thanks to Ghana’s Akwasi Frimpong, who’s set to become only the second athlete from West Africa to compete in the Winter Games.
Remember this dude? He’s back.
After going viral for going shirtless during the Rio opening ceremony in 2016, Tonga’s oiled-up flagbearer Pita Taufatofua will be the country’s sole representative in Pyeongchang after qualifying as a cross-country skier. Only this time, he’ll be keeping his shirt on. We assume.
The Team Canada gear is lit.
Speaking of shirts, The Bay went all out designing its Team Canada collection for Pyeongchang, with red-and-white Canada parkas, puffer jackets, those iconic red mittens and lumberjack shirts. Oh, and onesie PJs, because, sure, why not.
Jamaica’s back with a bobsled team.
30 years after the Caribbean nation made history—and inspired their very own Disney movie—by sending a bobsled team to the Calgary Olympics, Jamaica will do it again. This time, they’ll be sending their first female Olympic bobsleigh team to Pyeongchang, after the group finished seventh in December’s World Cup. And everyone loves a good sequel.
The Dufour-LaPointe sisters.
After Justine and Chloe Dufour-LaPointe finished one-two on the moguls podium in 2014, the Montreal natives are back to defend their title in 2018—with their older sister (and fellow former Sochi Olympian) Maxime rooting them on from the stands.
Shaun White and Lindsey Vonn are both back on the slopes.
After injuries derailed their Olympic hopes in 2014—White was forced to pull out of the slopestyle event, while Vonn had to miss the games completely—both former gold medalists will be seeking redemption in South Korea. (Assuming Vonn ever gets there, that is.)
It’s the Olympics.
Come on, people. How much more do you really need?
References [ + ]