When cold weather becomes a main topic at the Winter Olympics, it’s safe to say that frigid temperatures have made an impression. That’s the case in Pyeongchang, where brutal cold and high winds have been a common theme for both the media and for athletes.
How cold is it? The high Tuesday was 11 degrees Fahrenheit; the low was in minus territory and the wind chill was inconsiderate of the basic needs of both humans and journalists. In those temperatures, water bottles quickly turn to ice. Well-charged phones die within minutes of being pulled out from layers of insulated jackets and sweaters.
Surrounded by mountains that catch the cold, Pyeongchang is “Earth’s coldest location for that particular latitude,” AccuWeather reports.
It’s a sharp reversal for the Winter Games: Each of the last two – held in Sochi and Vancouver – set records as the warmest Winter Olympics, in 2014 and 2010, respectively. Sochi produced stories about ski jumpers landing in puddles – and temperatures that hit the 60s. At these games, we’ve already seen a report of some athletes’ skis being ruined by the unique qualities of very cold snow.
Conditions are expected to warm up a bit over the next week, but the forecast for Friday night’s opening ceremony calls for temperatures in the low to mid-20s, with a wind chill of 14 degrees Fahrenheit. It’ll be even colder for athletes and spectators at the alpine and snowboard events, higher up in the mountains.
As for how the athletes are coping, Jessie Diggins, a U.S. cross-country skier from Afton, Minn., says that while the cold could make athletes uncomfortable and cause complications, she welcomes it.
Diggins told NPR’s Melissa Block: “I think you can either laugh about it, or you can cry about it. And for me, I like to embrace the cold and see it as an awesome thing for me, because I’m used to it. And I think I like it more than most people. And so for me, that’s going to be my advantage. Instead of seeing it as, ‘Oh this might be so hard for me,’ I see it as, ‘Great, this is an area where I can shine.’ ”
“They had a pretty cold snap in Minnesota,” Diggins said, noting that it had recently been “minus-30s Fahrenheit. So, we’re used to some pretty cold days.”
Diggins added that the colder snow could slow racers.
Another fan of the weather is Won Kil-u — the head of North Korea’s delegation to the Pyeongchang Olympics. Saying that the weather would help make these games a celebration, Won said, according to the Yonhap news agency, “I’m from further north. It’s milder here.”