Why the Pyeongchang Games Are Different From All the Others

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — In the Gangneung Hockey Centre, the four-faced video screen in the middle of the rink puts on a show every time a penalty is called. Words like “Interference” and “Tripping” materialize in turquoise blue and start to giddily flip-flop around, in both English and Korean. You’d think someone just won the lotto.

Nope. “Delay of Game.”

Every Olympics is a fusion of the generic, staid look of the Games, as mandated by the International Olympic Committee, with the singular aesthetic of the hosting country. It is what gives these biennial extravaganzas, which stage nearly identical competitions in a different part of the world, their distinctive feel.

More than anything, being here — at two clusters of venues on the shores of the Sea of Japan and in the Taebaek Mountains — is a feast for the senses. Your palate is regularly lit up by the food, which is superspicy, or supersweet, or sometimes a bit of both. You can be freezing outdoors one moment and sweating in an overheated bus the next. Your eardrums get a workout anywhere there is music.

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