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Winter Olympics 2018: From skiing robots to fancy Korean headgear, the quirky side of Pyeongchang Games

A topless and oiled Tongan strutting around at the opening ceremony, skiing robots racing each other on the slopes at Pyeongchang, Olympic medallists showing off stuffed white and black tigers at medal ceremonies, a contingent of North Korean cheerleaders and Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un imposters, the 2018 Winter Olympics has witnessed its fair share of quirkiness.

With six days of action behind us, here’s a look at what caught our eye in Pyeongchang:

Fancy gear

The Americans have come to Pyeongchang sporting Ralph Lauren uniforms. Oh, and did we mention that the uniforms have heating components that can last up to 11 hours?

Norway’s curling team too sported hearts on their pants on Valentine’s Day.

But what has caught the imagination of the world are the various headgear the Korean volunteers are sporting at the Games while walking out at the ceremonies after each competition:

A South Korean volunteer brings stuffed toys for luge medallists. Reuters

A South Korean volunteer brings stuffed toys for luge medallists. Reuters

When Trump and Kim made peace

The showpiece tournament started off with a glitzy opening ceremony — one where a record 1,218 drones took flight and the two Koreas (South and North) marched under a unified flag — which gave the 2018 edition some of its most defining images.

One sight which made a lot of people do a double-take was that of sworn enemies Trump and Kim showing up. Together!

Alas, it turned out to be a bunch of lookalikes, who had tried to break into the media enclosure to “wave at the joint Korean delegation” which was marching under a unified flag.

The lookalike of Kim, who identified himself only as Howard, later also turned up at an ice hockey match featuring the mixed Korean team, briefly baffling the North Korean cheerleaders.

The skiing robots 

Besides athletes getting on skies and racing against each other, South Korea also saw robots taking on each other as the Ski Robot Challenge was held at the Welli Hilli Ski Resort, an hour’s drive west of Pyeongchang. Robots of all shapes and sizes from eight teams based out of universities and institutes fought at the event with a $10,000 prize on offer for the winning robot.

The event was much more hilarious as robots tumbled in the snow, or on some occasions, had to be physically stopped by handlers as they hurtled down the slopes.

Not gold or silver medal. The winner gets…a stuffed toy!

If you’ve watched any event at the current Olympics, you may have noticed the absence of medals of any colour being handed out to winners. Instead, you may have seen the winners being given a stuffed toy.

That’s right! A stuffed toy. Or, more specifically, a black and white stuffed tiger. Or even more specifically, a black and white stuffed tiger which is a miniature version of Soohorang – the mascot for the 2018 Olympics.

Before you think the athletes are out there competing for stuffed animals, let us remind you, there are actual medals on offer. However, in keeping with the tradition of the Winter Olympics, medals are only handed out at a ceremony held each night.

The soft toys are replacements for the bouquets that athletes are usually given (which, we must add, are replacements for the olive wreaths Olympic champs were given in the earliest versions of the Games).

The topless Tongan

A combination photo shows Pita Taufatofua at Pyeongchang 2018 (L) and during Rio 2016. Reuters

A combination photo shows Pita Taufatofua at Pyeongchang 2018 (L) and during Rio 2016. Reuters

The opening ceremony also threw up the image of a topless, and oiled man walking out in freezing cold.

Pita Taufatofua, you may well remember, was Tonga’s flagbearer at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

He didn’t do too well at the taekwondo competition, crashing out early.

But two years on, he has repackaged himself as a cross country skier and repeated his topless and oiled up shenanigans at the Pyeongchang Games too.


Updated Date: Feb 16, 2018 16:06 PM

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