Long gone are the days when we huddled around a shared television to watch the Olympics with rapt attention. Still, millions of us will tune into the Games this winter. We’ll cheer for our home countries, root for the underdogs, and eagerly wait for (or at times hide from) lists of winners and losers. The Games ignite a patriotic spirit, sure, but also a humbling appreciation for the precision and brilliance of our athletes. These moments make the world feel like a much smaller, friendlier place.
We know the Olympics are about more than the medals, the victories, and the heartbreaking defeats. That’s why, as the PyeongChang games officially kick off today, we’ve gathered six unique perspectives on parts of the Olympics that don’t usually make headlines. From an on-the-ground journalist’s dispatch and to a brief history of its iconography, we hope these reads bring another layer of depth, understanding, and appreciation to these spectacular Games.
With every Olympics comes a special set of “athletes.” No, these aren’t each countries’ top talent, they’re the Olympic pictograms designed uniquely for each Game. Chief Creative Officer for Weber Shandwick and LA-based artist Josh S. Rose takes us on a design journey through pictograms of the past — the evolution of style, the thread of cultural pride that runs throughout them all, and what makes PyeongChang’s set one for the books.
PyeongChang will play host to the first female Nigerian bobsled team — a historic moment but one rife with conflict. The three athletes are American-born but opting to race under the flag of their ancestral country. This decision, made with the hope of helping to represent Nigeria in a positive light, inspired this piece from journalist and Nigerian-American Ezinne Ukoha. Ukoha regularly writes about the conflict she feels between her homeland and America, but in light of this bobsled team, she argues we’re giving Nigeria a level of respect and admiration it falls very short of deserving.
The Olympics are more than a sporting event — they’re also a technology event. An intricate circuitry of recording and tracking devices bring the Games into your living room (or your phone). Tech journalist Lance Ulanoff, shares some of the new technologies being used to make this Olympics a moment in tech history. He outlines the VR experiences bringing the half-pipe inches from your eyes, the hundreds of drones capturing (and making their own) aerial action, and the illusive 5G network making the at-home experience bigger, stronger, and faster.
At only 17, Korean-American snowboarder Chloe Kim has already accomplished a lot. She’s the first woman to land back-to-back 1080 spins in competition, score a perfect 100 at the X Games, and bring home a gold from the Youth Olympic Games in 2016. But this year, Kim takes on the biggest challenge yet — her first Olympics. And expectations are high. Inspired by Kim’s story, graphic novelist Ryan Luikens draws a personal, poignant tale, capturing the sacrifices that athletes make to pursue victory, the motivations that keep them moving, and — ultimately — what it really means to win gold. The story is told with a mix of original illustrations and text, featuring both English and Korean translations.
Most of us watch the Olympics from behind a screen, and we often forget the army of dedicated reporters, producers, camera crews, and more who are tirelessly working to help us feel every throw, jump, and dramatic dive across the finish line. Mary Pilon, a sports journalist who covered the 2012 London and 2014 Sochi Games for the New York Times and was an NBC producer for Rio in 2016, shares her view from the other side of the lens. From grueling days to behind-the-scenes relationships to not-so-luxurious accommodations (hint: Sochi hotel room) and even almost being hit by a javelin, we get a rare view of another form of Olympic sprinting, jumping, and spinning.
Essayist Zaron Burnett III shares a personal essay about his first time barreling down the mountain, unable to turn or stop. And while he (spoiler!) does crash and burn, the inevitable fall pales in comparison to conquering the stereotype that “black people don’t ski.” Burnett’s piece compares his personal story of being the only black person on the mountain to the scarcity of black athletes competing at the Winter Olympics. But just as he broke a barrier (with admittedly far less grace), we’re now seeing more and more black athletes donning their country’s colors in hopes of gliding, sledding, and skating to gold.