Many parts of the U.S. associate the winter months with freezing temperatures and finding ways to never come out from under your coziest blanket. This year, you'll be able to keep hibernating while you watch others brave the cold when the 2018 Winter Olympics air on NBC. There will indeed be plenty of action when the best athletes from all over the world head to PyeongChang, South Korea to compete in their respective winter sports. As these accomplished athletes get ready to represent nations from across the globe, you might wonder exactly how many countries compete in the Winter Olympics?
When it comes to the numbers for this year's Winter Olympics, there is a record-breaking amount of countries expected to compete in PyeongChang, according to ABC News. A total of 92 countries are expected to compete as the Winter Olympics competition kicks off on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2018. For comparison, the last Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014 only saw 88 countries participate.
The record number of countries expected to compete in South Korea this month isn't the only impressive statistic ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics. There are six countries that are Winter Olympics newcomers, according to NBC Sports. Geez, with PyeongChang making Olympic history even before the Opening Ceremony, it's shaping up to be a very exciting 2018 Winter Olympics.
The countries that have the honor of sending athletes to represent their respective national flags in the Winter Olympics for the first time are Ecuador, Eritrea, Kosovo, Malaysia, Nigeria, and Singapore. Even more impressive for the Nigerian women's Olympic bobsled team is that they are the first African nation ever to qualify for the bobsled competition at the Winter Olympics, according to The Washington Post — so tune in for all the history-making action.
South Korea is the host of the 2018 Winter Olympics, and the country is using their time in the spotlight to help ease tensions with their volatile neighbor, North Korea. The two countries plan to march under the Korean Unification Flag at the Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony, according to CNN. While both North Korea and South Korea have athletes competing for the respective countries, the bordering nations also banded together to create a women's hockey team that will play under the Korea Unification Flag. Not only is the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics breaking participation records, but it's also aiding in this diplomatic breakthrough. It will be interesting to see how the relationship between these two countries evolves after the Games are over.
One more caveat to the number of competing nations deals with the Russian doping scandal. The Olympic heavyweight country was found guilty of hiding steroid use during the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, according to The New York Times. That resulted in a lifetime Olympic ban for those found guilty of being involved in the scandal, and the entire country of Russia is banned from the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang.
What about the innocent Russian athletes? Thankfully, there is a way for the hardworking Olympic athletes in Russia who weren't found guilty of using steroids to compete in PyeongChang. While the Russian national anthem and Russian flag will be absent from the games, clean Russian athletes are allowed to participate in their respective sports under the International Olympic Committee (IOC) flag.
Now that you have a lowdown on the 2018 Winter Olympics, you might be interested in a little Olympic history. The record 92 countries competing in the 2018 Winter Olympics looks even more impressive when you compare it to the 16 competing nations present at the first ever Winter Olympics in Chamonix, France in 1924. According to the official Olympics website, the inaugural Winter Olympics was known as "Winter Sports Week."
Thankfully, the storied tradition has grown into what you'll see at PyeongChang this February. Just make sure that your scorecard is big enough to keep track of the record number of competing countries. Tune in to the Opening Ceremony on Friday, Feb. 9 on NBC at 8 p.m. ET to see all 92 national flags ahead of the fierce competition.