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Looking Ahead to PyeongChang: Why We’re Getting Excited for the 2018 Winter Games

We are just one year away from the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and the events are shaping up to be incredibly exciting. Especially in trying political times, international sporting events like the Winter Games are wonderful opportunity to watch the nations of the world display incredible sportsmanship. But it’s not only the amazing athletes that make the Winter Games such a sight to behold. The unique global implications of the host country and their neighbors will also make 2018 an especially interesting year to on the ground and involved in the action. With just another year to go before the Pyeongchang Winter Games, here is some of the buzz that we’re already fascinated by:

Team USA’s Chances

Could 2018 be the year that the USA takes home the most medals from the Winter Games? While American athletes have brought our country to the top 5 rankings for the last three decades, the USA has not been the top performer since the 1932 Winter Games in Lake Placid. Should Russia be unequivocally be banned from competing due to doping, this would certainly increase the likelihood of USA winning the most medals. But even should Russia compete, Team USA is always a contender to look out for. With athletes like Shaun White, Mikaela Shiffrin, and Lindsey Vonn on our roster, Team USA packs plenty of competition. Pay special attention to the Figure Skating, Snowboarding, Freestyle Skiing, Downhill Skiing, Slalom, and Skeleton events if you want to see the sports where experts are speculating about the highest likelihood of America gold.

Team USA New-Comers

Every four years, it’s incredibly exciting to meet the newest athletic talents of every country. In 2018, the country has their eyes on two emerging young stars in particular, both of whom will be competing in their first Olympics:

Snowboarder Chloe Kim

She’s a favorite to win a Gold, already having two Winter X Games Gold Medals under her belt at the age of 16. What’s more, Kim is the daughter of South Korean immigrants, making Pyeongchang a particularly neat place for her first Winter Games.


Figure Skater Nathan Chen

Another favorite to win Gold, this 17-year-old began skating at age 3. Chen is the son of Chinese immigrants and the youngest of five children. He is known for nailing complicated quadruple jumps, sometimes as many as five in one routine.

Will Team Russia be banned from the 2018 Winter Games?

A Doping Control station in Sochi during the 2014 Winter Games. Source.

Many sports leaders in the USA and Germany are demanding a total ban on Team Russia from the Winter Games in 2018 as a result of widespread, insidious, and encouraged doping among the country’s athletes. This was almost a reality in Rio, as Team Russia failed to meet international anti-doping regulations, and would have included banning Russian athletes who tested completely clean of drugs.

However Lee Hee-beom, president of the Pyeonchang Organizing Committee, is optimistic that Russia will compete in 2018. Following the controversies in Rio, the International Olympic Committee met in the fall of 2016 and was presented with a thorough report by a Russian representative detailing their plans to clean up the intricate, state-sponsored doping program that involved more than 1,000 athletes over the course of just two years. The South Korean Olympic committee is currently open to Russia competing, provided they can meet the anti-doping criteria set by the IOC.

Regardless of your feelings about the matter, the controversy makes for a fascinating international discussion about corruption, accountability, and integrity in international sports. We’ll be glued to our news channels, eager to hear how this story develops.

Will North Korean athletes compete in Pyeongchang?

Despite their ambivalent relationship to the outside world, North Korea has sent athletes to most every Winter and Summer Games since the country’s inception, winning an impressive 56 medals. The two most notable absences here were the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul and the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles, which they boycotted.

Given that the next two Olympic events are to be held in countries which North Korea holds in government-mandated disdain (South Korea and Japan) it is possible that North Korean athletes will need to wait until 2022 to compete. But after an impressive showing in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, it is also possible that North Korea officials will be reluctant to let this momentum go to waste. However, North Korea is not currently home to any top ranking winter sport athletes, and their performances at the Winter Games have been consistently poorer than at the Summer Games. It might just be that North Korean officials are unwilling to risk what could be an embarrassing defeat on the home turf of their nearest and dearest enemy. But then again, with the South Korean presidency currently marred by scandal, the DPRK may feel emboldened.

Should North Korean athletes be permitted to compete in Pyeongchang, we can only hope for such heartwarming comradery as when South Korean Lee Eun-ju and North Korean Hong Un-jong posed for a selfie together during a Rio Gymnastics event. Moments such as these really capture the international spirit of the Games. It would undoubtedly be a historic and emotional moment should these two countries be able to put aside their political differences for the span of the Games.

north and south korea in pyeonchang

Is South Korea safe to visit?

The South Korea safety rating for travelers is the highest in the world as of 2016. Even amid political turmoil and protests against the President, South Korea boasts some of the world’s lowest crime and weapons rates. It’s no wonder that South Korea has emerged as a top tourist destination in recent years. Travelers for the Pyeongchang Winter Games can rest easy knowing they are statistically less likely to be the victims of a crime in South Korea than they are in their home countries.

According to Numbeo, these are the perceptions of crime from 364 contributors:

Crime rates in South Korea

Level of crime 23.66 Low
Crime increasing in the past 3 years 44.58 Moderate
Worries home broken and things stolen 23.60 Low
Worries being mugged or robbed 21.91 Low
Worries car stolen 18.72 Very Low
Worries things from car stolen 22.62 Low
Worries attacked 26.34 Low
Worries being insulted 30.24 Low
Worries being subject to a physical attack because of your skin colour, ethnic origin or religion 24.37 Low
Problem people using or dealing drugs 19.32 Very Low
Problem property crimes such as vandalism and theft 24.72 Low
Problem violent crimes such as assault and armed robbery 23.68 Low
Problem corruption and bribery 34.31 Low

Safety in South Korea

Safety walking alone during daylight 81.39 Very High
Safety walking alone during night 73.54 High

Difference Between South Korea & North Korea

Many travelers are well aware that South Korea and North Korea are two completely different countries, with different governments. That being said, we often field questions from potential clients that don’t know the difference. The two countries couldn’t be more different. South Korea is a functioning democracy while North Korea is a totalitarian regime. South Korea has a highly advanced economy, while North Korea has a centrally-planned, impoverished economy. Read more about the differences here.

Furthermore, the U.S. Department of State has issued no recent travel warnings for South Korea, although the it is highly advised to not visit North Korea



Want to go to the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang?

The 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang are certain to be an event for the history books, and a prime year for spectators. Between the American athletes arriving on the stage and the unique political situations unfolding, 2018 is a year that you will want to see the Winter Games in person. Don’t wait until it’s too late – ask about our Pyeongchang Winter Games travel packages today so that you can cross this incredible event off your bucket list.

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