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PyeongChang Winter Olympics: 'Snowboarding Big Air' Near the DMZ

The next Winter Olympics is now a year away. As excitement builds here are things you should know about the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang.
Image: The mascots for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics
"Soohorang" (left) and "Bandabi" (right) are the mascots for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.Kim Hong-Ji / Reuters
/ Source: NBC News

The 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea will begin just a year from today.

Image: Alpensia Ski Jumping Center
The Alpensia Ski Jumping Center is one of the PyeongChang 2018 venues.Chung Sung-Jun / Getty Images

It will feature events many of us have never heard of before, let alone seen.

Pyeongchang, the host city, is not Pyongyang, which is an entirely different place across the border.

As the countdown begins, here are 18 things to know about the Games — which will take place from Feb. 8 to 25, 2018.

1. The name of the location has been altered for the Olympics.

Local leaders were apparently afraid international visitors would confuse Pyeongchang, a county in eastern South Korea, with Pyongyang, the capital city of North Korea.

So, how to avoid such mix-ups? By emphasizing the difference.

In the logo, at least, the county suddenly sprouted a capital "C" in the middle. After who knows how many years as Pyeongchang, it is now PyeongChang.

2. We have been advised not to worry about the weather.

Apparently unfamiliar with the word "jinx," backers are promising plenty of snow.

Image: A snow sculpture in the shape of the Olympic rings
Visitors tour near a snow sculpture in the shape of the Olympic rings during the Daegwanryung Snow Festival in Pyeongchang, South Korea, on Feb. 3.Lee Jin-man / AP

The Organizing Committee says the average temperature in February for the PyeongChang mountain cluster is 22 degrees Fahrenheit.

3. We'll likely see a Ugandan snowboarder ...

Forget the Jamaican bobsled team, which gained fame at the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary, Alberta.

Thirty years later, we might end up focusing on Brolin Mawejje, a Ugandan snowboarder, who hopes to compete despite his homeland's equally snowless climate.

He would be the first Winter Olympian for Uganda, which straddles the equator.

4. ... And a bobsled team from Nigeria.

Nigeria, too, plans to compete in a Winter Games for the first time, with a women's bobsled team.

It's worth noting that the Ugandan snowboarder — and the Nigerian bobsledders, too — train in the United States.

The PyeongChang 2018 organizers say about 6,500 athletes from around 95 nations will compete in the Games.

5. Team USA will be chasing a record.

The team earned nine gold medals in Sochi, Russia, just missing its record of 10 at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Skier Lindsey Vonn is hoping to avoid an injury, something that kept her from competing in Sochi.

Image: Lindsey Vonn
Lindsey Vonn competes in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy, on Jan. 28.Domenico Stinellis / AP

Snowboarder Shaun White, dubbed the “Flying Tomato," is training for his fourth Olympics. A two-time gold medalist, he finished just off the podium in Sochi.

In figure skating, teenager Nathan Chen is considered a medal favorite, having won the U.S. Championships with a record five quadruple jumps.

6. The venues will likely be ready in plenty of time.

Unlike the Rio Summer Games, where workers were applying final touches even as the Opening Ceremony got under way, the PyeongChang Organizing Committee said last month that the completion rate for its six new venues was above 96 percent.

The two athletes’ villages will be finished by September, organizers said.

And PyeongChang has already held several Olympic test events.

7. There will be events many spectators have never seen before.

It's a good bet the ancient Greeks never heard of "Snowboarding Big Air."

Next year will mark the Olympic debut for the sport, which involves performing tricks without benefit of contact with the earth.

Image: Mark McMorris
Mark McMorris performs during Men's Snowboard Big Air at Winter X 2017 in Aspen, Colorado, on Jan. 27.Reuters

Three other events will also be introduced for the first time: Mass Start in Speed Skating, Curling Mixed Doubles, and a Nations Team Event for Alpine Skiing.

The International Olympic Committee says the new sports were approved to add “youth appeal” and increase participation by women.

8. More gold medals will be handed out than at any previous Winter Games.

The newly added sports will add four gold medal events, for a total of 102.

This will be the first Winter Olympic Games with more than 100 medal events.

9. This will be the first time South Korea has hosted the Winter Games.

Seoul, the South Korean capital, hosted the 1988 Summer Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee awarded the Winter Games to PyeongChang in 2011.

10. The Games' 13 venues will be spread across two areas.

The PyeongChang Mountain Cluster will host the skiing and sliding events, and the Gangneung Coastal Cluster will be home to figure skating, hockey, curling, and short track speed skating.

Image: The Gangneung Ice Arena
The Gangneung Ice ArenaChung Sung-Jun / Getty Images

The Opening and Closing Ceremonies will be held at the PyeongChang Olympic Stadium.

11. A new bullet train will speed spectators from Seoul to the Olympic areas.

It's a three-hour drive from Seoul to PyeongChang.

But construction of a high speed train, at a reported cost of $3.7 billion, is under way.

In their bid for the Games, organizers said the train would cut the travel time to 68 minutes. The latest estimate, though, is two hours. The train will be tested this summer.

12. Tickets are going on sale on Feb. 9.

Ticket will start at $17, but if you think that will get you into the Opening Ceremony, dream on.

Seats for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies will start at about $190 and go as high as $1,300. Tickets are expected to be popular with Asians because the Chinese New Year falls during the Games.

13. There might not be a Russian team competing.

It’s not yet known if a Russian team will be invited.

In December, the IOC extended doping sanctions against Russia until further notice and started disciplinary procedures against 28 Russian athletes from Sochi 2014.

14. Will pro hockey players sit it out?

A decision is expected soon on whether National Hockey League players will appear on Olympic ice.

NHL owners are concerned about the schedule, which falls during the regular season, and about costs and insurance.

The NHL did not allow players to compete in the Olympics until 1998.

15. The Games' mascot is a white tiger.

The tiger, named Soohorang, is a symbol of trust, strength and protection.

Image: The mascots for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics
"Soohorang" (left) and "Bandabi" (right) are the mascots for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.Kim Hong-Ji / Reuters

A white tiger was chosen to represent the copious amounts of snow promised by organizers.

An animated emoticon of the tiger is reportedly already available in a popular South Korean messaging service.

16. The jostling for volunteer spots looks to be as competitive as the Games themselves.

The Organizing Committee received more than 91,000 applications for about 22,400 spots.

That includes more than 1,150 submissions from the United States. Women submitted a large majority of the applications.

17. Officials are focused on regional security.

The Korean war ended in 1953 not with a peace treaty but with a truce — a temporary pause in the fighting.

And the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) runs across the northern edge of Gangwon, which is the province in which PyeongChang is located.

18. PyeongChang will kick off a series of Asian Olympic Games.

Tokyo will host the 2020 Summer Games before the action shifts to Beijing for the 2022 Winter Games.