The first Winter Olympics ever held in South Korea will kick off in PyeongChang on Friday, February 9, 2018. Spectators at the open-air PyeongChang Olympic Stadium will likely brave extreme cold temps and bitter winds, but they're in for a treat. Both ticket holders and fans at home will catch a traditional ceremony, albeit with a few surprise twists.
Here's everything you need to know about this year's opening rites:
When does it start?
You'll either want tune in on Friday, February 9, at 6 a.m. ET for the live performance that starts at 8 p.m. KST, or sleep in a little later and catch it during primetime coverage on NBC at 8 p.m ET. The entire show is expected to last two or three hours, so settle in.
If you want to get a jump on the action, competition is actually scheduled to start two days before. The first rounds of curling and alpine will take place on Wednesday, February 7, (although it's technically Thursday in Korea) with coverage on NBCSN from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. On February 8, NBC Primetime will feature the start of the figure skating team event as well as freestyle skiing. More curling and ski jumping will air on NBCSN.
Where will it air?
American viewers can catch the spectacle on the NBC channel, but that's not the only spot to watch. Live feeds will also stream on as well as the free . The app is available for download on both phones and streaming sticks like , , and .
NBC also announced that the ceremony will air , an interactive, 360-degree viewing experience available on a variety of devices and platforms.
Where is held?
Both the opening and closing ceremonies will take place in Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium, which was specifically built for the elaborate performances to the tune of $58 million. The 35,000-person arena won't host any athletic events (or even stay standing after the games), but it's already attracting criticism for its design.
The open roof — a choice made to save costs and speed construction — could expose competitors, world leaders, and fans to extreme cold. An predicted the potential real-feel temperature to be 7 degrees Fahrenheit, making it the coldest Olympics to date.
A recent concert held in the venue led to six reported cases of hypothermia, so organizers are already planning stopgap measures to keep everyone warm, including distributing hot packs and blankets.
What will happen?
The reports the ceremony will follow the same general schedule as the Sochi Winter Olympics four years ago:
- Entry by the head of state
- Playing of the national anthem
- Parade of participants
- Symbolic release of doves
- Head of state declares the Games open
- Raising of the Olympic flag
- The Olympic oath is taken by an athlete, official, and coach
- The Olympic flame and the torch relay
- The artistic program
While the artistic program (a.ka. the big show) is usually kept a secret until the last minute, are swirling about potential K-pop performances from Guckkasten's Ha Hyun-woo, Bolbbalgan4's Ahn Ji Young and Deulgukhwa's Jeon In-kwo.
A note on the "symbolic" doves as well: The Olympics hasn't used live doves since the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics, when a group of birds met an unfortunate fate in the Olympic cauldron. Other potential mishaps could occur too. included a giant Olympic ring that failed to illuminate and expand on cue.
When will Team USA appear in the Parade of Nations?
In every Olympics, the parade is organized by the language of the host country, except for Greece, which leads, and the host country, which goes last. Based on the Korean alphabet, the United States will appear 26th out of the 91 parading countries, in between Mongolia and Bermuda. The U.S. has not announced its flag bearer yet, but Tongan Pita Taufatofua will from the Rio Olympics.
What will they wear?
As the official outfitter, iconic American brand Ralph Lauren is charged with creating patriotic ensembles for the U.S. delegation. This year, athletes will step out in both parkas and bomber jackets, each outfitted with heating systems that last up to 11 hours.
Underneath, competitors will stay stylish wearing slim jeans and wool sweaters. Navy hats and bandanas, suede gloves, and mountaineering boots complete the look.
Katie Couric and Mike Tirico will share hosting duties, NBC revealed. Couric previously worked on the opening ceremonies for the Sydney, Salt Lake City, and Athens Games, so she's no stranger to the event. The decision comes in the wake of Matt Lauer's ousting from the network following a series of sexual harassment allegations. Lauer had co-hosted the opening ceremony in Rio with Meredith Vieira back in 2016.
Will Russian and North Korean athletes participate?
Russia received plenty of sanctions for systematic doping during the Sochi Olympics, and some of them will be on full display during the opening ceremony. Approved Russian athletes will compete under the Olympic flag as the team "Olympic Athletes from Russia." The International Olympic Committee also placed restrictions on their uniforms, meaning the athletes will likely wear a featuring the Olympic rings.
Following recent diplomatic talks, also announced that the two countries will march together under one flag like they did at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin.
The delegations have walked separately at the 2010, 2012, and 2016 Olympics. North Korea did not compete in Sochi in 2014. The two countries will also field a joint women's ice hockey team.