Earlier this year, I got to tick off TWO of my bucket list wishes: 1) go to Japan, and 2) attend an Olympic game.
In February 2018, Olympic fever hit South Korea as the country prepared to host the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, Gangwon-do.
Being a Native English Teacher, I was lucky to have the chance to witness the excitement firsthand living in South Korea. Olympic promoters would make their way around the country inviting everyone to take part in the pre-Olympic games celebrations. The Pyeongchang Olympic logo was everywhere I looked, and Olympic advertisements reigned supreme across social media.
I was just as excited about the Olympics as my students, so I had my classes create Pyeongchang Olympic posters, welcoming visitors to Korea. Here’s a few of my favourites!
Now, I did say I got to attend an Olympic game, right? But not just any game, oh no! I was lucky enough to see two pair figure skating games! Two. Figure Skating. Olympics. It was incredible. I stayed in Gangneung for two nights, making the trip to Seoul before catching the KTX (speed train) to Gangneung, the city where various Winter sports, including figure skating, were being held.
The atmosphere in Gangneung was amazing! As soon as you exited the train, Olympic posters and promoters were everywhere, sharing information about the upcoming programs and activities happening with newcomers. Outside the station, photo points were positioned, with Olympic volunteers helping to keep crowds orderly and in line as well as offering to take people’s photos.
The north of South Korea is usually colder than the southern regions, and so I made sure to take my padded coat (called simply ‘padding’ here) and a blanket in case the stadium was cold. In anticipation of the cold conditions, certain convenience stores and Olympic areas would provide free heat packs for visitors. But as it turned out, Gangneung was pretty warm (at least for me)! Although I wore my padded coat and jumpers, I was nice and toasty inside the figure skating arena.
The Olympic Park in Gangneung was a 15-minute walk from Gangneung station. On the walk, I passed by some amazing paper lantern sculptures highlighting traditional Korean culture, as well as some small Olympic areas with more photo opportunities and event information.
Inside the arena, the air was energised and filled with chanting. During breaks, entertainers would sing and play music, sometimes using traditional Korean instruments. Food stalls served both Korean and Western food and were placed in the lobby of the arena and outside in the Olympic Park.
In the Olympic Park, there were scheduled parades, souvenir stores, restaurants, and plenty of Olympic Sponsor stores. The official Olympic store opened at 10am, with people queuing even from 9am in order to get their hands on the limited edition Olympic merchandise.
I will certainly never forget the experience of watching athletes at the top of their game competing against each other for a chance to win an Olympic medal.
Although the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics is over, you can still check out the official Olympic website for posts and pictures: @pyeongchangolympics2018.