The 2018 PyeongChang closing ceremony marked an auspicious end to this year's winter games. The world's top athletes marched once again across the stage, and world leaders looked on from above. One of the most interesting aspects, though, was not the bright light shows depicting the many countries' flags or other showy aspects of the event. Rather, it was the medal ceremonies in the middle of the closing ceremony. They were scheduled that way, just as they are at many Olympic games.
The reason was not that these events finished so late that there was no other option. The men's race was even held on Saturday, Feb. 24, at 2 p.m. local time. The women's race was held on Sunday, but it would have finished by 5 p.m. Just like other sports on Sunday, a medal event could have happened before the 8 p.m. start of the closing ceremony.
Instead, this seems to be an Olympic tradition. "Traditionally a victory ceremony or two is held at the closing ceremony," The New York Times reported. According to the Associated Press, back when the modern Olympics got there start in 1896, all medals were awarded this day. Now one sport gets held until the end to honor that tradition.
During the winter games, this sport has often been cross-country skiing. The same two events were awarded their medals during the 2014 Sochi Games.
This is all spelled out in the rundown of how a closing ceremony is supposed to go. First comes the entry of the head of state for the hosting country. Then the playing of that country's national anthem. Of course, this year that would be South Korea. Up next is the entry of the nations' flags and the parade of athletes. Following that is the final victory ceremony, as written in the closing ceremony factsheet from the International Olympic Committee (IOC):
After the athletes’ parade, a medals ceremony is held. The IOC, with the help of the OCOG, decides which event will have its medals ceremony during the Closing Ceremony.
The OCOG is the Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games; this year's was in charge of organizing everything in PyeongChang.
Unfortunately for South Korea, there were no home athletes awarded during the games. It was actually a big night for Nordic countries. Finland's Iivo Niskanen won the gold in the men's competition while Marit Bjoergen won the women's competition for Norway. Olympic Athletes from Russia took home silver and bronze for the men. Women's silver and bronze went to athletes from Finland and Sweden respectively.
Other events held on Sunday were the four-man bobsleigh, women's curling, and men's ice hockey. Olympic Athletes from Russia took home the gold in ice hockey over Germany, which could have led to an awkward moment in the closing ceremony.
The IOC voted to uphold Russia's ban throughout the rest of the winter games, and the country was not allowed to march with its own flag during the closing ceremony. Therefore, an OAR gold would have been inconvenient for organizers (and the OAR team had been a favorite for the hockey gold given that the NHL didn't release its players for Team USA in PyeongChang).
At the next Olympics, a summer games in Tokyo, the same will happen, a victory ceremony will be held during the closing ceremony. But instead of cross-country skiing, it will likely be the marathon. Olympic tradition at work.