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  • Writer's pictureChristensen

Pyeonchang Olympics

Updated: Mar 20, 2018

I remember the trip to Yeosu for the World Expo back in 2012. Grace and I had only been dating a month by then, so it was a pretty huge step in our relationship to go on a trip together. We stayed in a guest house with a men's and women's dorms, and I hadn't gotten a lot of sleep the night before we went because there had been a snorer in my room. Groggily, I was guided by Grace to the fair grounds, and for the next few hours, we were overwhelmed by the many booths showcasing the cultures from around the world. I vividly remember one booth from Sweden, I believe, that even had an icy cave entrance to that country's booth, and Grace regaled me by telling me of her trip to Sweden when she back-packed around Europe. We left the Yeosu World Expo with little trinkets from around the world that still adorn our apartment.

That was an impressive event.

The Pyeonchang Olympics was not.

I wish I could write about how the Pyeonchang Olympics impressed me, a person who has been to a lot of festivals in South Korea and around the world. I wish for my adoptive country that I had some positive words to write, but I don't. Now, I will freely admit that I am not a sports fan. That might automatically eliminate me as a fair and unbiased witness to a historical sports event like the olympics. That might be similar to a Star Wars fan going to a Star Trek convention (by the way, "Live long and prosper!"). Though, I can give you my honest opinion as a world traveler on an event that drew thousands to South Korea.

In short, my wife and I weren't impressed at all. You can tell by the fact that I really have no pictures of our trip to Pyeonchang. Why take pictures of "every day life in Korea"? Why take pictures of something that a rally at a university would have surpassed? Also, when we did leave early, we didn't take any souvenirs or reminders of the time we didn't enjoy there.

Harsh, I know. But hopefully honest.

Like I said, I have been to a lot of festivals big and small around the world. I was looking forward to something that I had grown up watching on TV. I was the kid who had a crush on one of those American swimmers at the Summer Olympics somewhere. I don't know who or where. I told you that I'm not a sports fan! Yet, I was looking forward to the glamour of the Pyeongchang Olympics with its tinge of history-making in how the North and South Korean teams had unified for this sports event. It reminded me of how in 1936 Berlin had held the Olympics, and the historical events of the Munich Olympics of 1972. "Did you get to go to the Pyeongchang Olympics before such and such event happened?" Yes, I was there.

Though, as we came into the area where we were to pick up our tickets, I was struck by how plain the fair grounds were. There were no salmunori groups playing traditional Korean music. There was no one dressed in hanbok, the traditional Korean garb. In fact, the Gangneung Olympic Park that we had to go to since the Pyeongchang Olympic Park was two hours away was inhabited by only maybe five tents with a McDonald's, a ski resort type food court, a souvenir shop with a long line that snaked in front of it for a good 20 minutes, and another concession stand with the same fare as the food court. Tents. All that money went towards tents and little to no fan fare. Where did the money really go? I didn't see anything that should have cost millions of Korean money (okay, a million Korean won is equal to $1,000, so I'm making a bit of a joke here). Sadly, I know enough about the scandals of bribes and pay-outs that led to President Park's impeachment to suspect that there was a bleeding of funds put aside for the Pyeonchang Olympics.

I sadly write this. I had wanted a success for my adoptive country. Yet, it irked me how the international press spoke highly of what I considered a monstrous failure. The reality was far from the hype.

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