Since the competition began on Friday, Trump has tweeted about the massive budget deal he signed into law, his desire to have more Republican legislators in Congress and offered condolences for two Ohio police officers who were killed in the line of duty. He tweeted about jobless claims dropping, his decision to block release of a Democratic memo on the Russia investigation and the downfall of a top aide accused of domestic abuse.
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Missing from the series? Any mention of Team USA or words of encouragement for the athletes competing in the games that opened Friday in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Not to be overlooked was Germany, which took home a pair of gold medals thanks to women’s biathlon champion Laura Dahlmeier and Andreas Wellinger—who completed a jump of 113.5 meters to take gold ahead of Norway’s Johann Andre Forfang in ski jumping.
Mr. Trump did send a pair of tweets last week complimenting the host country for the games.
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“Best wishes to the Republic of Korea on hosting the @Olympics! What a wonderful opportunity to show everyone that you are a truly GREAT NATION!” he tweeted last Wednesday, two days before the opening ceremony. He followed up with: “Congratulations to the Republic of Korea on what will be a MAGNIFICENT Winter Olympics! What the South Korean people have built is truly an inspiration!”
Congratulations to the Republic of Korea on what will be a MAGNIFICENT Winter Olympics! What the South Korean people have built is truly an inspiration! pic.twitter.com/giN2B1h6Ph
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The United States had won six medals as of Tuesday, including gold in men’s and women’s slopestyle snowboarding and women’s halfpipe.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Monday congratulated the U.S. Olympic team on a “great start.”
If Bjoergen can finish on the podium Tuesday in the 10-kilometer race, she’ll move into a tie with compatriot Bjoern Daehlie for the most medals in Olympic history by a cross-country skier.
“We especially look forward to snowboarders Jamie Anderson and Red Gerard bringing their gold medals back home with them very soon,” she said.
Vice President Mike Pence returned to Washington late Saturday after leading the U.S. delegation to Friday’s opening ceremony. Mr. Trump’s daughter, Ivanka Trump, who serves in the White House as an unpaid adviser to her father, will lead a delegation to the closing ceremony.
Below, you’ll find an overview of Saturday’s winners as well as medalists from Sunday’s early-morning events in Pyeongchang that aired Saturday evening in the United States.
Mr. Trump’s silence on the Pyeongchang Games mirrors his relative lack of comment during the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
JAVIER SORIANO/Getty ImagesNorway’s Marit Bjoergen picked up a silver in the women’s cross-country 15-kilometer skiathlon on Saturday and made history in the process.
He sent one tweet that August. “Good luck #TeamUSA #OpeningCeremony #Rio2016,” Mr. Trump wrote as a caption to a photo of himself, with both thumbs up, standing in front of an American flag. Superimposed on the photo was the phrase “Big League Good Luck Team USA.”
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At a cross-country ski area outside of Carbondale, Colo., the thin track was recently refreshed with a meager two inches of snow. Yet people were out in droves, delighting in all manner of snow sliding. It was a hot January day, so blistering that a local rancher called it beautiful “for April.”
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Around one turn, some skiers had built two miniature snowmen. They had raisin eyes and stick arms, and they stood only 10 inches high — scale replicas, really, an homage to a past era of abundance. It didn’t matter. Give people even a little snow and they will find a way to celebrate being alive.
Unseasonably warm temperatures and limited snow delayed resort openings across the country this winter.
It’s not much of a leap from those two underweight snowmen to the Winter Olympics. Yes, the Games are big business. But every Winter Olympian’s love of their sport began with a childlike vision of fun. That’s the real reason climate change poses such a menacing danger to winter sports: Rising temperatures are threatening not just what we do, but who we are.
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There’s even a word for it: solastalgia. A climate scientist friend, Elizabeth Burakowski, told me the term describes “the existential distress caused by environmental change, the homesickness felt when one is still at home. It is the unease one feels during those warm, snowless winters.” Today, many lifelong winter athletes are familiar with solastalgia — and a lot of everyday Vermonters and Utahans and Californaisn are too.
The anxiety is justified. NASA scientists named 2017 the second-warmest on record, surpassed only by 2016. According to both NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 17 of the 18 hottest years have occurred since 2001.
Colder places and colder seasons are changing faster than warmer ones. NOAA has reported that since the turn of the 20th century, winter temperatures in the U.S. have increased at almost twice the rate of summer temperatures. Researchers at the University of Waterloo predict that, by 2050, 9 out of 21 former Winter Olympic sites will be too warm to host the games. Pyeongchang, fortunately, is one of the predictably cold ones, though organizers still expect this year’s games will require man-made snow.
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The athletes grasp the full scope of global warming. Bode Miller, the most decorated American Olympic ski racer, recently told the Colorado Springs Gazette: “We’re dealing with a climate issue that’s massive, and it’s going to screw everything up. If you’re not on the cutting edge of that, you’re going to get toasted.”
It’s fair to say that American ski areas already are getting toasted. Unseasonably warm temperatures and limited snow delayed resort openings across the country this winter. One season doesn’t make a trend, but even one dry year means hundreds of millions of dollars in losses.
In a report that will be released after the Olympics, the nonprofit Protect Our Winters finds that high-snow years in the U.S. produce, on average, an additional $692.9 million in economic value and more than 11,750 additional jobs nationally. During low-snow years, snow country loses $1 billion in value and more than 17,350 jobs compared with an average season.
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Of course the numbers distract from greater potential losses — afternoons of family sledding, the madness of skitching, the look of street lamps in a blizzard.
Olympic athletes are uniquely positioned to sound alarms about climate change. Many of them already do: Ski racing legends Ted Ligety and Steve Nyman; cross-country skiers Kikkan Randall, Andy Newell and Simi Hamilton; and snowboarders Jamie Anderson, Kelly Clark and Danny Davis. They represent a new breed of competitor, focused almost as much on the need to save their craft as they are on the craft itself. Increasingly, their sponsors align. Burton, the company that made the U.S. snowboard team’s Olympic uniforms, is one of the most outspoken businesses about the perils of global warming.
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But we need more than leadership from a few. The Olympics are an international stage from which athletes can demand action from the countries they represent and mobilize their sponsors and fans. This year, all the Olympians competing in Pyeongchang should be vocal in some way — every last one.
The Olympics are about achievement and execution, about pushing the limits of human physical ability. Pyeongchang, more than any other winter games in the past, will also be about other limits: how much humans will allow global temperatures to rise and the willingness of elite athletes to use their power, money and global platform to save their livelihoods, and ours.
Auden Schendler is a senior vice president of Aspen Skiing Co. and a board member of Protect Our Winters.