Olympic fever is rising in Northern Nevada as top local athletes head to South Korea to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics that begin a week from today.
The games, the 23rd Winter Olympics, will be held Feb. 9-25 in PyeongChang, which is about 80 miles east of Seoul, the South Korean capital, and 60 miles south of the Demilitarized Zone which separates South and North Korea.
Vice President Mike Pence will represent the United States at the opening ceremony, and athletes from 96 nations will participate in 15 different winter sports. The games will be broadcast nationally by NBC and carried here by KRNV (channel 4), the NBC affiliate in Reno.
Of the 240 athletes (135 men and 107 women) comprising the U.S. team, six are from the Lake Tahoe-Reno area and one from Las Vegas. The U.S. delegation is the largest in the Olympics, followed by Canada which will send 224. After recent talks by South and North Korea, the two countries announced they will march together in the opening ceremony under a Korean Unification Flag and will participate jointly in some sports as a single team.
The two nations, which were pitted against each other in the 1950-1953 Korean War which ended in an armistice, still remain technically at war, however, and the North Korean leadership continues to expand its nuclear capacities and threaten South Korea and its ally, the U.S., with annihilation.
As for the Tahoe-Reno athletes being sent to the games, they are Bryce Bennett of Tahoe City, who will compete in alpine skiing; Maddie Bowman of South Lake Tahoe, freestyle skiing; Jamie Anderson, South Lake Tahoe, snowboarding; Kyle Smaine,South Lake Tahoe, freeskiing; David Wise, Reno, freeskiing; and UNR graduate Tim Jitloff of Reno, freeskiing. The Las Vegan on the team is Evan Weinstock, bobsledder.
There are other Olympics-related developments taking place in Northern Nevada as well.
The only Winter Olympics to be held in this region was at Squaw Valley in 1960, and today, 58 years later, area sports and government officials are striving to bring the 2026 winter games to Reno and Lake Tahoe.
According to 2026 Winter Games Coalition CEO Jon Killoran, his organization’s goals are to bid for the games and “bring sports tourism to the region and the state so we can help the economy then and now.” His group also is bidding for the 2024 Summer Olympics, and “although this is our priority, we want to bring the Winter games back to this area.”
According to an article published last week in the Salt Lake City Tribune, “The U.S. wants to bring the Winter Games back to the United States as early as 2026. Salt Lake City, Denver and Reno/Tahoe have emerged as the top choices for the American bid. Only one can get the gold.”
The Tribune noted that Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve was a professional figure skater as a young woman and she won several local and regional competitions at Squaw Valley. “The Olympic legacy runs deep with Reno’s mayor,” and she is a leading proponent for having the 2026 Winter Olympics held in the Reno-Tahoe area. Sacramento also is being mentioned as a potential joint bidder with Reno-Tahoe for the 2026 games, added the Salt Lake City newspaper.
Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to watching, in particular, the opening ceremonies of the South Korean Olympics next Friday.
The North Korean delegation includes a 230-member female cheerleading squad which will perform at the opening ceremony and throughout the two-week games. The young women, who will be dressed in striking white and black outfits, are all single and rumored to be the most attractive females in the entire nation. A former member of the group is Ri Sol Ju, who is now the wife of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
Turn on KRNV, channel 4, on Friday to watch the beginning of the Winter Olympics. And be sure to check out the dancing and prancing North Korean ladies!
David C. Henley is publisher emeritus of the Lahontan Valley News and Fallon Eagle-Standard.