12 March 2018

Opening Times Looks Behind The Scenes At The 2018 Winter Olympics

The Olympic Games are one of the most popular and most broadcasted events in the world. Every two years, the Winter and Summer Olympics take place interchangeably. For this 23rd edition of the Winter Olympics, 826,000 tickets were sold (that’s sixteen times PyeongChang’s population)! Needless to say, the Olympics are always a massive tourist magnet. Competition attracts crowds, but what takes place when the runs are closed, and the TV cameras are off? Here we take a look at the athlete’s routines and the technology behind-the-scenes at this year’s Winter games – the “closing times” of the Olympics, if you will.

The Athletes and Their Training

Athletes come from all around the world to take part in the Olympics. This year 2,922 athletes from ninety-two countries came to participate - a record number of countries for any Winter Olympics, with Ecuador, Eritrea, Kosovo, Malaysia, Nigeria and Singapore all making their debut.
Off the slopes there are intense training regimes, but also technologies which have helped improve and ease athletes’ performance. Let’s take a closer look.

1. Winter Training Regimes

Behind every competition lies incredibly strict and long training programs. An average British Olympic swimmer, for instance, will swim 1,860 miles a year to prepare for competitions – the equivalent of the distance separating London-Beijing! An Olympic skier, on the other hand, will weight train intensely three to four hours a day, and the rest of the day complete outdoor skiing sessions at a slower and less intense pace.

Short track speed skaters might exercise six days a week for eight hours a day, completing a combination of skating and intense weight training. Whilst on the bobsled, again, a good chunk is spent on the ‘track’, but ultimately, the bulk of their time is spent in the weight room. Power and strength are key in winter sports, with gravity doing a lot of the work after the initial burst of acceleration.

On average, Olympic athletes train six to ten hours a day, five to seven days a week and twelve months of the year.

2. The Technology

New technologies are always helping to push the boundaries of what athletes are capable of. The following were all used for the first time at this year’s Winter Olympics.

  • Samsung Smart Suits
    Two Dutch speed skaters were this year equipped with specialised high-tech haptic suits, built by Samsung, that recorded their body position in real time and then shared that data with their coaches. Filled with sensors, the suits transmitted an analysis of the athletes’ postures, meaning coaches could suggest improvements in real-time, signalling adjustments to the athlete through a band on their wrists. These suits were solely available for training, as during a race this technology could be considered ‘digital doping.’
  • Airbags Jackets
    Alpine ski, luge and skeleton racing are amongst the most dangerous competitions in the Winter Olympics. Because athletes are racing at fast speed with very little protection, these competitions have the highest severe injury rates within the Olympics. But new protection gear has been tested for these Olympics. Equipped with seven sensors to detect when a racer is about to crash, the suits automatically inflate, protecting athletes from potential injuries.
  • Halo Neuroscience Headsets
    U.S. skiers used an innovative transcranial stimulation technology during training to boost efficiency and increase their ability to pick up new skills. The headsets sent out small, targeted currents of electricity to the brain’s motor cortex to encourage minor adjustments in ski form. Unfortunately this technology didn’t give the U.S. team a huge edge, and the skiers winning the fewest medals since 2006.
  • The Tourist Experience
    South Korea is known for being a technological hub, and these PyeongChang Olympics have very much reinforced that. Arguably the most futuristic Olympics ever, South Korea has introduced many new technologies to the world, setting high standards for the Japanese Olympics in four years. Here are a few technologies to note from PyeongChang, bringing the experience of the spectators to the next level.
  • The Introduction Of 5G
    Whilst 5G is to be released commercially in 2020 to the world, the company KT, an Olympics sponsor, have used these games as a test-bed for the technology. Announced as a hundred time faster than 4G, 5G has been used in PyeongChang to power self-driving cars and buses.
  • Self-Driving Buses
    In partnership with Korea’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport, KT and Hyundai developed self-driving buses called “5G Buses”, which drove visitors between the various venues. One of the most impressive features of these vehicles were the windows, which acted as video screens broadcasting live coverage of the Olympic competitions. Internet device or transportation - these vehicles certainly blew visitors’ minds!
  • Viewing Experience
    For those of us who didn’t have the opportunity to attend the Olympic competitions, PyeongChang had us covered with all events being filmed in ultra-high definition (UHD). UHD quality (4K and 8K) is four times higher than regular HD (1080p and 720p), making the joy and agony of the competitions more true to real life that it has ever been. Another innovation this year was virtual reality (VR) streaming.

    Out of the 1,800 hours of live-stream broadcasted by NBC, more than 50 hours were presented in VR in real-time. NBC had delivered 85+ hours of VR streaming in Rio, but these broadcasts were only available the following day. Finally, 1,260 drones were used during the Opening Ceremony to get the most spectacular experience for viewers. Another record for these PyeongChang Olympic games!
  • Artificial Intelligence And Robot Guides
    South Korea has been investing hugely in artificial intelligence in recent years and the Olympics were the perfect occasion to showcase this technology. Eighty-five robots helped visitors make their way around the twelve venues, offering competition details and schedules in four languages: English, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese. Robots in the international Incheon airport were also introduced, which were able to take passengers to gates, scan boarding passes and offer flight information.

The Next Winter Olympics…

Japan has announced they want to surpass their Korean neighbours with more artificial intelligence and self-driving vehicles for their spectators. Tokyo 2020 has much to look forward to!