The fourth edition of the Winter Youth Olympics will open in eastern South Korea on Friday night, as the eyes of the winter sports world once again turn to Gangwon Province six years after the Winter Olympics in the region.
Gangwon Province will serve as the first Asian host of the quadrennial youth winter sports event, following Innsbruck of Austria, Lillehammer of Norway and Lausanne of Switzerland.
The competition, open to athletes between 15 and 18 years of age, will wrap up on Feb. 1.
This will be the largest Winter Youth Olympics ever, with 1,803 athletes set to represent 79 countries. They will be competing in 81 events across seven sports and 15 disciplines.
South Korea, as the host, will have the largest delegation with 102 athletes.
With a greater focus on friendship and education through sport, there is no official medal race at the Youth Olympics, although medals are still awarded to top-three finishers.
Several venues from the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics in Gangwon will be used again for the youth event. All ice events will take place in Gangneung, some 160 kilometers east of Seoul, and Pyeongchang, just west of Gangneung, will be home to ski jumping, biathlon, cross-country skiing, Nordic combined and all sliding events.
The nearby town of Jeongseon will hold alpine skiing and moguls in freestyle skiing. Another Gangwon county, Hoengseong, will stage snowboarding and four remaining freestyle skiing events: slopestyle, halfpipe, skicross and big air.
Five nations, Algeria, Nigeria, Puerto Rico, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates, will make their Winter Youth Olympics debut. This will be the first Winter Games, senior or youth, for Tunisia.
The opening ceremony will take place simultaneously at two locations: Gangneung Oval in Gangneung and Pyeongchang Dome in Pyeongchang. The athletes' parade and the main ceremony will be in Gangneung, while Pyeongchang will host cultural events and performances.
The ceremony will be centered on a fictional, Gangwon-bred girl named "Woori," whose Korean name translates to "we" or "us." She dreams of becoming an astronaut and then meets her future self in space. Some 300 performers, many of them amateur dancers from Gangwon, will put on a show depicting Wuri's journey. The opening ceremony will also feature up-and-coming K-pop acts such as Lun8 and tripleS.
All events, with the exception of the opening ceremony in Gangneung, will be free. Spectators only have to grab their free vouchers online at gangwon2024.com. Over 350,000 tickets had been snatched up as of Thursday. (Yonhap)