How the South Korea Winter Olympics Will Be Different

Mikaela Shiffrin
Alain Grosclaude/Agence Zoom/Getty Images
Mikaela Shiffrin

The mascot for the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, is a white tiger named Soohorang that symbolizes protection. Given the political unrest on the Korean peninsula this past year, it was a fitting choice. Thankfully, there’s been a recent thaw in relations between South and North Korea, whose delegations are expected to march into the opening ceremony together on February 9.

“The de-escalation of tension has been most welcome by both the world and our employees,” says Jim Bell, president of NBC Olympics, which is planning over 2,400 hours of coverage across broadcast, cable and streaming during the 18 days of the Games. PyeongChang is 14 hours ahead of the U.S. Eastern time zone, so morning events can be shown live in primetime in the States. In fact, this marks NBC’s first Winter Games with live primetime telecasts in all U.S. time zones.

Mike Tirico takes over for Bob Costas as the primetime host after handling daytime duties during the Summer Games in Rio two years ago. “You just get a different feel from Olympic athletes [as opposed to professionals],” says Tirico, who covers football, golf and horse racing for NBC. “They have not been five-star coddled athletes, as football and basketball players often can be.” Among the U.S. Olympic icons he’s looking forward to showcasing are Shaun White, two-time gold medalist in snowboarding’s half pipe event, and Alpine skiing star Lindsey Vonn.

After a fourth-place finish in Sochi four years ago, White appears to be back in top form, earning a perfect score at a qualifying event in January. With 79 World Cup wins and the 2010 downhill gold medal, Vonn is the most decorated women’s skier of all time, but she’s nearly as famous for her injuries, often the result of horrific crashes on the slopes.

“This is someone who has broken all these bones but still has this ridiculous desire to go down a mountain 80 miles per hour,” Tirico marvels, “and believe that she can do it.” And she probably won’t need Soohorang’s protection.

We spotlight other major events and athletes sure to get plenty of airtime—and inspire chants of USA! USA!

Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony, Friday, Feb. 9, 8/7c, NBC