South Korea boasts the speediest broadband in the world (an average of 28.6Mbps compared to the UK’s 16.9) and connectivity will be further boosted at Pyeongchang by the introduction of a 5G mobile network at games venues, courtesy of Intel. 5G delivers download speeds of 100Mbps (Stoke-on-Trent was recently crowned the town with the fastest 4G connection in the UK at 26.6Mbps). The tech giant is planning to show off the capabilities of its enormous mobile bandwidth by offering such delights as transcendent live streaming and unsurpassed live VR experiences to visitors.
South Korean industrial-technology firm Samsung will be equipping two Dutch speed skaters with suits peppered with sensors to feed back live body position data to their coaches. Smartphone software will then analyse their racing posture and suggest improvements that the coaches can relay via predefined buzz signals to a band on the athlete’s wrist – for example “crouch deeper”, a lower crouch being critical in skating to deliver a higher speed. The suit will only be deployed in training; using it in a race would constitute digital doping.
Downhill skiers can sometimes achieve speeds of 90mph, so a tremendous amount of research goes into designing helmets that can mitigate cranial damage from high-energy crashes. The latest development in multi-directional impact protection (MIPS) helmets, the Giro Avance, will be worn by some members of the US skiing team. The Avance MIPS features ball-and-socket style slip planes that help reduce rotational movement during an angled impact. In addition, the shell of the helmet features a “hammerhead” design that is supposed to reduce the impact from slalom gates.
In November the South Korean government announced the completion of a £2.7bn Korea Train Express (KTX) line from Seoul to Pyeongchang. Built by Hyundai, the trains will travel at 300kph and the journey will take 69 minutes rather than three hours by road – so there’s no excuse for being late to the slopes. In a marvellous advert for nationalised railways and inclusiveness, state-run Korail (slogan: “Wants to be a beautiful bridge that connects people’s heart [sic] and not just some iron-made transportation”) offers a seven-day foreigner-only pass for using the KTX and other services for the modest sum of £135.
Originally developed to lessen the impacts of riders on tarmac in MotoGP, Dainese airbags will be worn by large numbers of competitors at Pyeongchang. The vests feature seven sensors that can detect when the racer is losing control and about to crash, prompting them to inflate to Incredible Hulk proportions. Austrian downhill Olympic 2014 champion Matthias Mayer was wearing one in 2015 when he spun around and crashed at high speed, suffering just a fractured vertebra. “A crash can never be something favourable,” International Ski Federation (FIS) technical expert Günter Hujara told NBC. “[But] maybe we have seen here he was saved from a spine injury.”
The Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics run from 9 to 25 February
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