As we edge into February, the XXIII Olympic Winter Games are right around the corner. Taking place from February 9th through February 25th in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the Games will host 102 events across 15 disciplines including skiing, figure skating, bobsled, and (let us not forget the best) curling. This will be the 2nd time that the Games will be hosted by South Korea after the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul. One of the big storylines approaching the start of the games will be the absence of Russia from competition at the games, which will influence the medal counts.
- 92 nations will be represented at the games, but that would have been 93 if not for the doping scandal hanging over Russian athletes results from the 2014 Sochi Games. As a result, Russian athletes cleared to compete will not be permitted to march into the Opening Ceremonies under the Russian flag, but rather under a neutral Olympic banner as “Olympic Athletes from Russia.” The IOC is finishing the appeals of 39 Russian athletes to compete in the games, but the likely number of athletes from Russia should be less than the 232 sent to the last Winter Games in Sochi in 2014.
- With Russia sending fewer athletes, this will have implications for the predicted medal counts. According to Gracenote’s medal report, rounding out the predicted top five medal winners are Germany (40 medals), Norway (37), Canada (33), USA (29), and France (24). Based on the Russian athletes cleared to go to Sochi, those athletes look to collect around 19 medals and would place them in 6th place on the predictions. With Russia not sending a full contingent of athletes, this provides a net increase in medals for other countries with Germany and Norway gaining the greatest benefit of five and four medals respectively.
- The home country, South Korea is predicted to win 10 medals, of which 7 are gold, placing them 11th in total medals and 6th in gold medals. Much of winning that hardware will depend on South Korea’s athletes performing in their signature winter sport of short track speed skating. 42 of 53 South Korean winter games medals come from short track and the country won 44% of all gold medals in the sport since its introduction in the Albertville 1992 Winter Games. Also in South Korea’s favor to increase its medal count is that there is usually a bump for the home country compared to the previous Games. On average, that home venue advantage is 53%, which can help South Korea win more medals than its best performance in Vancouver 2010 with 14 medals.
- Another way to get a picture of the medal count is from oddsmakers to get the “wisdom of the crowd”. According to Pinnacle, Norway has the best odds of winning the most total medals of 1.2 to 1, followed by Germany (1.4 to 1), the US (4.3 to 1), and Canada (7.9 to 1). As for South Korea, oddsmakers set their gold medal count at +/- 5.5 medals.
Regardless of the medal counts, there is going to be a lot of exciting events and surprising moments to watch throughout the Games in February. Remember to buy your rally curling broom before the start of the games!