Forecasters predicted temperatures as low as 23 degrees Fahrenheit at the open-air PyeongChang Olympic Stadium for the 23rd Winter Olympics. But that didn’t stop athletes and fans from enjoying the high-energy opening ceremony.
Those attending the highly anticipated event Friday evening — Friday morning for those watching stateside — are enduring bone-chilling temperatures at the stadium that seats 35,000, which sits nearly a half-mile above the Sea of Japan and is blasted with Siberian winds from the north.
To ward off the cold, organizers made good on a promise to “distribute a ‘kit’ that included poncho-style windshield, a blanket, plus seat, hand and foot warmers.
“We will also set up wind nets to block the wind which have proven to be successful, as well as installing additional heaters around the stadium for people to go to if necessary,” a spokeswoman for the PyeongChang Organizing Committee previously told PEOPLE.
South Korean temperatures plunge to -4 degrees Fahrenheit at night and rarely break above freezing during the day, making the Pyeongchang Games the coldest Olympics in decades, Reuters reports.
“This is not Seoul,” an official told the site, calling the cold in South Korea “different.” “This is Pyeongchang cold.”
Austrian Alpine ski racer Marcel Hirscher told Reuters that athletes were using a different pair of skis on each run due to freezing temperatures sharpening ice crystals.
“Snow crystals get really sharp when temperatures go to minus 20 degrees and the base burns,” he said. “It’s the same as lighting a fire and burning your [ski] base because the snow crystals get such sharp edges.”
With the threat of hypothermia, organizers have cut the typically four-hour procession down to two hours.
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The Polo Ralph Lauren crew behind Team USA’s uniforms kept the cold weather in mind when designing the outfits. The athletes’ limited-edition down parkas are embedded with an interior heating system made of conductive carbon and silver ink and printed in the design of an American flag.
The 2018 Winter Olympics are airing live on NBC. To learn more, visit teamusa.org.
- Reporting by ADAM CARLSON