This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Learn more

Pyeongchang Winter Olympics 2018: How Athletes Are Braving Subzero Cold

These conditions require much more than a hat and gloves.

Today at the opening ceremony, elite athletes from around the world kicked off the 2018 Winter Olympics to K-Pop and freezing temperatures. The temperature at the night-time festival, taking place in chilly Pyeongchang, South Korea, measured in at 31 degrees Fahrenheit but felt like a blisteringly cold 25 degrees. While the athletes representing Bermuda still rocked shorts and Tonga’s Pita Taufatofua kept up his Olympic tradition of walking out oiled-up and shirtless, that is still very cold.

It’s the type of cold both spectators and athletes will have to be smartly prepared for throughout the games. While the number of people who attended the opening ceremony hasn’t been released yet, the stadium, which rests at about a half-mile above the Sea of Japan, was designed for 35,000. That means that Games committee has to be prepared to keep 35,000 warm and well, an effort that became more pressing after a November trial run of the Olympic stadium — which does not have a roof — resulted in seven people developing hypothermia. That happened when the temperature was an average of 37 degrees Celsius — warmer than it will be at these games.

In an attempt to keep audience members safe from the cold, everyone attending the opening ceremony was given a bag with a windbreaker, a lap blanket, a knit cap, hand and feet warmers, and a heated seat cushion. The stadium was also modified to have corner windscreens, 18 heated rest areas, and 40 gas heaters between the aisles. All of that still wasn’t enough to keep audience members from walking out during the rehearsal for the ceremony on Saturday, when a wind chill factor of 7 degrees below zero wasn’t enough to keep people on their feet.

Article continues below

Our Science and Innovation teams bring you all of today’s news that’s helping shape your tomorrow.
Sign up for our newsletter:

Staying warm in cold and dry Pyeongchang — its average high in February is 31 degrees and its average low is 13 degrees — is an important challenge for this year’s attendees. While the colder weather will be good for playing sports (last year’s games in Sochi, Russia were warm to the point of complaint), it doesn’t bode well for people waiting out in the cold. Hypothermia is often something that happens gradually after prolonged exposure to a cold environment. Specifically, it occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it, leading your internal temperature to drop to 96 degrees Fahrenheit (a healty temperature hovers at 98.6 degrees).

The important thing for people attending the games is that they protect their core, where the vital organs live. If you insulate your core with layers — in turn, trapping air that creates toasty dead air space — you’ll stay much warmer. For maximum warmth, experts recommend four layers: a thermal base layer, a mid-layer fleece, a jacket, and then a waterproof shell. The ideal base layers are made of moisture-resistant wool and polyester — moisture makes you wet, which makes you cold. Mittens are the warmer choice over gloves, and a hat is always essential.

Humans aren’t the only things at risk of cold-induced injury these Olympic games: Technology has to be carefully watched as well. The New York Times reported Thursday that wires used to rig the equipment at the outdoor venues were becoming brittle and easily snapped in the cold, while workers had to be careful to not step on and break any frozen cables on the ground. Things will be less stressful during the indoor-arena sport events, which will take place in the slightly warmer city of Gangneung.

And if you missed the live-stream of the Olympics this morning, no worries, NBC will be re-airing the event. As for the rest of the games, there’s a bunch of other streaming and cable options for you to enjoy.

The Incredible Science Behind This Self-Warming, Self-Cooling Bed

Eight Sleep’s new bed will make tossing and turning a thing of the past.

Filed Under Data

Sleep tracking can unquestionably help you establish better habits which allow for a more restful night’s sleep. By keeping track of the nights that you toss and turn, you can identify potential explanations for your sub-optimal slumber. Maybe it’s the time of week that’s got you anxious. Maybe it was the cheeseburger you had for lunch. Paying attention is just the start, though.

The 'Stoned Ape' Theory Might Explain Our Extraordinary Evolution

A scientist resurfaces a psychedelic retelling of human evolution.

Imagine Homo erectus, a now-extinct species of hominids that stood upright and became the first of our ancestors to move beyond a single continent. Around two million years ago, these hominids, some of whom eventually evolved into Homo sapiens, began to expand their range beyond Africa, moving into Asia and Europe. Along the way, they tracked animals, encountered dung, and discovered new plants.

Did Inbreeding Kill the Neanderthals? Experts Say Skeletons Hold Clues

Things got a little "Game of Thrones."

Today, Homo sapiens are the only humans left on Earth. But thousands of years ago there were more of us — other species that belonged to the same genus, and in turn, our family tree. They are now extinct and scientists endeavor to figure out why.

In a new study published this month in Scientific Reports, a team took on the case of Homo neanderthalensis, and argue that the reason they died out was because things turned a little Game of Thrones.

Ancient Stonehenge Discovery Refutes Popular Theory About Its Origin

The discoveries take us "a step closer to unlocking Stonehenge's greatest mystery."

Determining how the Stonehenge was built is one of archeology’s great mysteries. It’s difficult enough to build a piece of Ikea furniture in 2019; how was it possible that prehistoric Europeans transported giant pillars hundreds of miles to their final resting place in Salisbury Plain? There’s a popular origin theory involving Neolithic ships, but in a study released Tuesday in Antiquity, researchers undermine it by going straight to Stonehenge’s source — the ancient quarries that housed the stones.

Brain Scans Reveal Why "Night Owls" Have It Rough in a 9-to-5 Society: Study

The results explain why we need to "create more flexibility in our society."

The 9-to-5 workday originated with American labor unions in the 1800s, and today, the eight-hour workday is the norm. But however normalized the schedule, it is directly opposed to something more powerful: biology.

In a new study, scientists report that people whose internal body clocks tell them to go to bed late, but are then forced to wake up early, have a lower resting brain connectivity in the regions of the brain linked to consciousness.