– Farewell, Korea: First of three straight Asian Olympics ends

February 26, 2018

It began with politics. It ends with … politics. In between, humanity’s most extraordinary feats of winter athletic prowess unfolded, revealing the expected triumphs but also stars most unlikely – from favorites like Mikaela Shiffrin, Shaun White and Lindsey Vonn to sudden surprise legends like Czech skier-snowboarder Ester Ledecka and the medal-grabbing “Garlic Girls,” South Korea’s hometown curling favorites. Pyeongchang closes its chapter of the 122-year-old modern Olympic storybook yesterday night with countless tales to tell – tales of North Korea and Russia, of detente and competitive grit and volunteerism and verve, of everything from an uncomfortable viral outbreak to an athlete’s boozy joyride. And above it all: unforgettable experiences for meticulously trained athletes from around the world, all gathered on a mountainous plateau on the eastern Korean Peninsula to test for themselves – and demonstrate to the world – just how excellent they could be.

In the closing ceremony, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Ivanka Trump, the daughter of U.S. President Donald Trump were in the stadium, as was General Kim Yong Chol, head of the North Korean delegation.

What followed was a strong dose of athletic diplomacy: two weeks of global exposure for the Korean team, particularly the women’s hockey squad, which trained for weeks with North and South side by side getting along, taking selfies and learning about each other.

Let’s not forget Russia – or, we should say, “Olympic Athletes from Russia,” the shame-laced moniker they inherited after a doping brouhaha from the 2014 Sochi Games doomed them to a non-flag-carrying Pyeongchang Games.

Athletes from North Korea and South Korea celebrate during the closing ceremony.

But two more Russian athletes tested positive in Pyeongchang in the past two weeks. So yesterday morning, the IOC refused to reinstate the team in time for the closing but left the door open for near-term redemption from what one exasperated committee member called “this entire Russia drama.”

What’s next for the games? Tokyo in Summer 2022, then Beijing – Summer host in 2008 – staging an encore, this time for a Winter Games. With the completion of the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, that Olympic trinity marks one-third of a noteworthy Olympic run by Asia.

Norway tops the final medal tally

The Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Games opened on February 9 and were the biggest Winter Olympics of all time, with 2,920 athletes competing for a record 102 gold medals. Norway topped the final medal tally with 14 golds ahead of Germany, which also had 14 gold but fewer medals in all. Canada was third with 11 golds. Hosts South Korea were seventh. The two Koreas marched together in the opening ceremony behind the Korean unification flag. But they were seen entering separately into the closing event. The North Koreans marched in waving small North Korean flags and unification flags. The South Koreans followed right afterwards but most of them carried South Korean flags in both hands. Russian athletes marched into the closing ceremony under a neutral flag after a ban on Russia’s Olympic Committee was upheld following a mass doping scandal. Marit Bjoergen became the most successful Winter Olympian with 30km gold in Pyeongchang and was given the honour of carrying Norway’s flag at the closing ceremony.

Russian hockey players lift their Olympic athlete-turned coach Oleg Znarok in celebration of their win against Germany in the gold medal match at the Gangneung Hockey Center.

The Russians won the gold in men’s hockey – without a flag to salute or a national anthem to listen to. So, they sang it instead to celebrate their 4-3 victory over underdog Germany yesterday. – All News First!

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