2018 Winter Olympics brings joy, skepticism

The 2018 Winter Olympics held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, drew to a close on Feb. 25 after 16 days of competition.

Norway ranked above all other participating countries, winning a total of 39 medals, eight more than second-place Germany and 10 more than Canada, who came in third.

The U.S. finished fourth overall with 23 medals and featured memorable successes in cross-country skiing and snowboarding. Notable contributions to this medal count included gold medal finishes from cross-country skiers Kikkan Randall and Jessica Diggins and snowboarders Shaun White and Chloe Kim.

Outside of the feats of athletes from the top-ranking countries, one group in particular also gained global attention, the joint North and South Korea women’s hockey team. Although the team was more symbolic than a threat to win gold, many viewers like senior Jemima Adisa still rooted for the team and saw it as a step in the right direction in terms of international relations.

“I think the joint hockey team was more symbolic than anything else,” said Adisa. “I think it’s a good sign though that North Korea was even willing to create a joint team, but that’s just what I’d like to believe.”

Performances of athletes from all countries drew viewers from across the globe. According to NBC, approximately 17.8 million out of the 19.8 million U.S. viewers watched on NBC’s primetime platform, approximately 7 percent less than the viewership of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

Despite the declining viewership, several individuals like Early College student DJ Moore watched some of the world’s top athletes perform.

“I did watch the Olympics because I enjoy watching sports,” said Moore. “The most memorable thing for me was probably the U.S. (women’s hockey team) winning gold, or maybe watching the end of the women’s cross-country skiing, which was insane.”

Events on a scale as large as the Olympics come at an expense just as large. South Korea is expected to pay approximately $13 billion for hosting the Olympics, up from initial estimates of around $8 billion.

Despite the costly price tag, South Korea will turn some venues into tourist locations which they believe will be a source of revenue. South Korea’s Hyundai Research Institute estimates that these locations will generate about $40 billion in the years to come. South Korea hopes that its investment will soon pay off and help boost its economy, which is a commonly held belief for supporters of the Olympic games.

First-year Jed Fallorin shares the same sentiments.

“(The Olympics) also stimulates the economy for where they are hosting,” said Fallorin.

In addition to the economic costs and benefits for the host country of the Olympics, there was a significant environmental drawback this year that may be irreversible for South Korea. In order to build the ski venue, over 50,000 trees from a sacred forest in Pyeongchang were cut down. According to officials, over 1.2 million people signed a petition to move the venue to another location, which failed to produce any changes.

“I disagree with the cutting down of the trees,” said Fallorin. “They should’ve built around it.”

With possible controversies like the razing of a sacred forest ground in mind for future host countries, people have begun to question if the Olympics are worth the environmental sacrifice.

“If a country already has the structures for the Olympics, the Olympics is still worth having because it brings the world together for a little bit,” said Moore. “But if a country does not have the structural or economic means to host, I don’t think it is worth it.”

Like many, Adisa questions whether or not the Olympics’ benefits outweigh its negatives.

“I’m inclined to say it may not be worth it, especially if it’s having an environmental impact too, but I don’t know what all the pros and cons are to hosting the Olympics, so I’m not strongly against it,” said Adisa. “It does make me wonder though, why the Olympics were created, and are those reasons still valid?”