PyeongChang 2021 Winter Olympics – Final Week, Feb. 20-25th
The Closing Ceremonies
Last Sunday the closing ceremonies of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea took place. Athletes from around the word took center stage one last time as they marched through the same stadium where they had stood two and a half weeks earlier. This time, instead leading their respective nations, those carrying the flags of their country formed a circle in the center of the stadium, and the other competitors walked to their seats as one large group. The international unity that the Olympics strive to achieve was clear in this procession, and contrasted heavily with the divided way different nations present themselves during the opening ceremonies.
The program that the closing ceremonies followed was ripe with other symbolism as well. Korea utilized traditional music merged with modern rock to demonstrate how their cultural heritage and modernity are linked. Images throughout the show further cemented this idea. Soohorang, the white tiger who was the official mascot of the games in PyeongChang, also made multiple appearances. Another drone show by intel made the adorable tiger walk across the sky, and the ceremonies ended with him, along with some local children, skating around the arena in a celebration of all that has happened over the last few weeks.
The closing ceremonies of every Olympic Games is a chance not only for the nation where they took place to celebrate all that has happened, but also for the country hosting the next games to give a taste of what is to come. The 2022 Winter Olympic Games will be held in Beijing, China. Before the torch was put out, the mayor of PyeongChang passed the Winter Olympic flag to the head of the International Olympic Committee, who in turn passed it to the mayor of Beijing. The Chinese choreographed a dance program that involved performers, two of whom were dressed as pandas, skating around in LED covered costumes. Messages of welcome from the Chinese people, including President Xi Jinping, were also played on video scenes throughout the stadium.
Finally, at the very end the Olympic torch was extinguished. Snowflakes projected on the floor of the stadium were “used” to put the flame out. Before the program ended, a bit of time was spent showing the ensuing revelries. After two and a half weeks of intense competition with the pressure of the entire world on their shoulders, the athletes were finally able to let loose and celebrate.
And, man, did they have a lot to celebrate about! Over 300 medals were awarded throughout these games, with Norway receiving a record-breaking 39, 14 of which were gold. After them was Germany, with 31 medals, Canada, with 29 medals, the United States with 23 medals, Netherlands, with 20 medals, and the home country, South Korea, with 17 medals. Below you will find some of the greatest stories behind the medals that were awarded during the last week of the games.
Women’s hockey was one of the biggest stories of the games, as it continued an old rivalry between the Canadian and US teams. The US won gold in the 1998 Winter Games, but since then Canada has dominated every four years. The Canadians won gold in 2002, 2006, 2010, and 2014, playing against the US in all the gold medal games except for 2006, when the US came in third. Placing second and third in every Winter Olympics over the past twenty years made the US team fiercely determined to dominate as they entered the gold medal match last Wednesday, which unsurprisingly pitted them against Canada yet again. It was a close game, and at the end of the final period the teams were tied 2-2. After twenty minutes of overtime and five rounds of shootouts, the game was still tied. Finally, in the sixth round of shootouts the US managed to get the puck in, securing the gold medal and making history.
The men’s hockey tournament was also quite exciting. In an upset during the semifinals, underdog Germany beat Canada. This pitted Germany against Russia in the finals. The game was exciting and high-scoring. At the end of the final period the game was tied, and, like the women’s final, was pushed into overtime. Unlike the women’s though, Russia scored during the extended play, and won 4-3. After receiving their medals, the Russian team began singing their national anthem, something they had been forbidden from doing due to sanctions against the Russian National Team due to a statewide doping scandal. Still, after receiving their first gold in almost thirty years, Russian hockey can’t be blamed for showing this national pride.
The other big stories from the final week of the Olympics came from cross-country skiing. Jesse Diggins and Kikkan Randall won the US’s first gold in cross-country skiing when they came in first during the Women’s Team Sprint. This medal is US’s second ever within the sport, and the first within a women’s event.
Marit Bjorgen of Norway also made history by becoming the most decorated Winter Olympic athlete in history. At the games in PyeongChang, which were her fifth, she won four medals in cross-country skiing, including two gold. This brings her total medal count to fifteen, eight of which are gold.
Some of the other notable events of the past week include:
- The US men’s curling team won their first ever Olympic gold.
- Russia dominated Ladies’ Single ice skating, winning the gold and silver medals. Alina Zagitova, fifteen, and Evgenia Medvedeva, eighteen, were in a league of their own, with bronze medalist Kaetlyn Osmond of Canada being the only one able to remotely challenge them.
- The first ever Big Air snowboarding competitions went down, with Sebastian Toutant of Canada placing first in the men’s competition, and Anna Gasser of Austria taking the gold in women’s. Kyle Mack and Jamie Anderson, both representing the US, won the silver medals.
- Ester Ledecka, the snowboarder who stunned the world by winning the Ladies’ Super-G alpine skiing race, earned the Czech Republic gold in Parallel Giant Slalom snowboarding as well.