PYEONGCHANG, Gangwon Province — With just a day left until the opening ceremony, anticipation is running high among those attending South Korea’s first-ever Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang.
On Thursday afternoon, roads leading up to PyeongChang Olympic Plaza were packed with vehicles, while certain pathways were closed off with heavy police security ahead of Friday’s opening ceremony.
Colorful flags promoting the Winter Games in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, have been installed across the roads connecting the main Olympic venues, while construction workers were putting the finishing touches on various structures of Soohorang and Bandabi, the official mascots for this year’s Olympics.
Construction workers work on a promotional board featuring PyeongChang Olympics mascots Soohorang and Bandabi installed on a roadside near the PyeongChang Olympic Plaza on Thursday. (Park Ju-young/The Korea Herald)
Local and international broadcasters have finished setting up their studios in PyeongChang, while thousands of reporters from around the world have settled into the Main Press Center in PyeongChang and Gangneung.
Despite subzero temperatures, groups of volunteers and international guests were seen roaming around stores, restaurants and cafes surrounding main Olympic venues in PyeongChang.
At the Holiday Inn & Suites Alpensia PyeongChang Suites, where members of the national sports organizations of countries attending the Olympics are staying, global guests there displayed high enthusiasm and hopes for the start of the games and their national athletes competing in the event.
“The PyeongChang Olympic Village is great, we’re loving it. It’s a nice venue and there’s a nice atmosphere in the village and our athletes have settled in very well,” Stephen Martin, who is leading Team Ireland at the 2018 Winter Olympics, told The Korea Herald.
Martin is the chief executive of the Olympic Council of Ireland and a two-time Olympic medalist in men’s field hockey from Great Britain. Returning to South Korea after clinching a gold medal at the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics, he is now overseeing a delegation of five winter sports athletes from Ireland.
Stephen Martin, chief executive of the Olympic Council of Ireland, speaks to The Korea Herald in an interview, Thursday. (Park Ju-young/The Korea Herald)
Though PyeongChang is colder than expected, the Team Ireland chief noted that it is not such a big problem, and that training is going smoothly.
“For four of our athletes, it’s their first time competing at the Olympics and they’re very excited,” Martin said. “I hope all the preparations could go well and that PyeongChang could become one of the best Winter Games ever.”
Raimundo Neto, a representative of Brazil’s Ministry of Sports, said Brazil is looking to land its first ever Winter Olympics medal at PyeongChang this month. The country has prepared a delegation of nine athletes, who will competing in bobsled, cross country skiing, alpine skiing and figure skating.
“We’re trying to get a place at the Winter Olympic Games here. We come from a warm country, but our athletes have been training really hard to get a good position in the upcoming games,” Neto said.
Though the extreme cold has been tough, the Brazilian national team has been enjoying PyeongChang and its atmosphere thus far, he noted, adding that the team was greatly looking forward to the next day’s opening ceremony.
The PyeongChang Olympics will take place from Feb. 9-25 across PyeongChang, Gangneung and other areas of Gangwon Province. The opening ceremony is to be held Friday at 8 p.m.
Some Winter Games disciplines had already begun their official competitions as of Thursday, including the qualification rounds for the ski jump and curling mixed doubles.
On Friday morning, competitions for curling, freestyle skiing and figure skating are also scheduled to take place before the evening’s opening ceremony.
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