Saturday, 22nd September 2018
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The Winter Olympics

Although Ireland has more than it's fair share of athletes competing in the forthcoming Winter Olympics in PyeongChang in South Korea there will be very few people in the country who will be disappointed if they don't come back with a slew of medals. For a country that goes into meltdown when we get some few inches of snow every decade or so it's even amazing that we've got any athletes going to the Winter Olympics at all!

The Winter Olympics just really aren't our thing, we're not really a mountainous country that gets a lot of snow and the only time we really get ice is every Christmas when the ice skating rink comes to town for a few weeks. Nevertheless as the opening ceremony attested the Winter Olympics are a big thing, the opening night was spectacular and wonderfully well choreographed with all of the competing countries trooping out in the outfits of their particular nation. Special mention must go to Tonga for it's standard bearer who just came out in a grass skirt in the freezing cold.

When you talk about a huge sporting event like this one in South Korea you cannot really ignore the large geo-political issues that swirl around the occasion. The largest and most talked about item involving these Winter Olympics is the rapprochement between North and South Korea who came out as one country at the very end of the spectacular when all of the other country's athletes had finished their presentations. This was a huge step forward for the two countries where just months ago tensions between the states were at an all time high. The fact that the sister of the leader of North Korea also attended the opening ceremony and went on to have talks with the President of South Korea afterwards was a huge step forward in thawing the relationship between the two countries. Even though most of this was symbolic, you can't really underestimate the huge step forward that this was, a step forward in the relations between these two countries where heretofore animosity was the defining factor.

Of course there were other issues of significance that happened at the opening ceremony in PyeongChang and one of them was the fact that Russia is still banned from international competitions due to it's state-sponsored doping programme that still haunts the country. There are Russian athletes competing but only those that passed a thorough screening process by the Olympic committee. So, although over the next two weeks or so we will be watching superb feats of sporting prowess there will be other ways to remember these particular games in PyeongChang, South Korea.


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