The Pyeongchang Winter Olympics Look Unrecognizable From Space

The Olympic Village looks like an alien landscape.

A sky view of Pyeongchang Winter Olympics
Screengrab via ESA/YouTube

So much of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang has been about height. Shaun White’s gold-medal performance in mens’ snowboarding saw him soar off the lip of the half-pipe high enough to make four full revolutions; Mirai Nagasu, meanwhile, leapt so high she became the first American woman to land a triple axel at a Winter Olympics. Not to be outdone, the European Space Agency showed off its mad hops in a video of the Olympics taken from space.

The video, released Thursday, sure shows off how high the twin satellites of the ESA’s Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission soars above the Earth. These satellites orbit the Earth at an altitude of 488 miles — beat that, Shaun White! The satellites, which normally orbit the Earth to collect visual data about the changing Earth’s surface, snapped this photo of Pyeongchang on January 30.

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The result is unrecognizable. From such great heights, the frigid Taebaek mountains look less like snowy 700-meter-tall peaks and more like a bunch of dry brown leaves under melting ice.

The Olympics are virtually unrecognizable from space.

Screengrab via ESA/YouTube

Fortunately, ESA guides us through this alien map by pointing out several key sites. In the center is Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium, nestled in a snowy valley. To its southwest is Alpensia Resort, the site of the biathlon and ski-jumping events and, crucially, where the shirtless Tongan flag-bearer Pita Taufatofua will make his debut in cross-country skiing later in the Games.

Leaves in ice, or Pyeongchang from above?

Flickr / Henry Hemming

A little further down, at the edge of an ominous-looking peak, is the Olympic Sliding Center, where Emily Sweeney crashed in a luge competition earlier this week, and where bobsleigh and skeleton races are still to come. Lastly, there’s the Olympic Village, tucked into a swirl of brown stone and icy snow that looks not unlike a tightly-wound chocolate Swiss roll.

Altogether, the video is a nice show of altitude from the ESA, but with such fierce competition around, it probably won’t win any medals in this Olympics.

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