* This post is written by Asif Quadri, one of the Korea Blog’s Worldwide Korea Bloggers.
Daegu Airport Welcomes IAAF
For my return from China I flew back into Daegu Airport. This would be my first time arriving as I’ve only ever flown through Busan since flights are so few to Daegu. At Beijing Airport there were more foreigners than usual heading to Daegu and they were more mature looking than the typical English teacher.
I realized they might be coming for the IAAF games and asked one person, who turned out to be a sporting official from Sierra Leone. Different African and European nationalities on the flight made up almost half the flight, which would otherwise have been full with Koreans or Chinese.
As we arrived, passport control was quite slow with this many foreigners. However, there were many displays for the Daegu IAAF event.
Upon entering the arrivals lounge there were large crowds of locals holding IAAF banners and cheering wildly at each arriving passenger.
There were welcoming delegations for each set of passengers. One group of locals was waving a board saying ‘Welcome Belarus’. People kept thinking I was part of the IAAF arrivals and kept approaching me.
Outside, IAAF were waiting coaches to take them to the venue and athletes village. I walked across to the bus stop, where people were again confused and thought I was lost, so I had to tell them I was going to Chilgok and showed them my local bus card.
For the last month the main streets in Daegu have all been decorated with flags of each of the participating countries, even though some neighbourhoods like mine are nowhere near the event venues. Even outside my school are flags of some countries.
Hopefully by this weekend I will be rested and recovered from my China trip and apartment move in time for Saturdays Opening Ceremonies.
The Daegu IAAF Games opening ceremony was held in spectacular style on Saturday. Surprisingly a friend and I were able to get tickets for 40,000w ($40) for perfect seats in the centre of the oval on level three. I had my nine-day pass however, given by the Korea Blog which gave me daily free entrance but I had bought these tickets much earlier in anticipation. This was probably my one and only time to attend a major world sporting event, in my hometown, at such low prices, so I wasnt going to pass up the chance.
The ceremonies began with a parade of costumed women who came in two lines into the stadium. The two rows stretched the entire length of the inside field. Then they sat in pairs facing each other and began a traditional drumming performance. This was followed by rows of green winged dancers who filed into the stadium by the drummers and began a swirling performance with their giant drapes.
Video: Drummers and Dancers
After this was the flags of nations. Bearers holding each flag marched into the main stadium. They then took their positions in the performance area by the drummers and dancers. I remember a call going out months ago for volunteer flag bearers, but they needed conversation-level Korean, and to be available for rehersals in August when I would be travelling.
Next were two short flag-raising ceremonies for the Korean Flag and the IAAF Flag. This was followed by a welcoming addresses by the president of Korea and the president of the IAAF, after which they declared the games officially open.
Now was the main entertainment performance by Giant Sarbi Mascot at the stadium entrance. There was a Korean female soloist that sang a medly. Unfortunately I’m not current on K-Pop to tell you who she was but I know at the closing ceremonies was JYJ (more on that later).
While the singing was going on lots of dancers and performers clustered in the center and the lights went dim. Then giant green floodlights lit the centre where they had constructed and now raised a giant ring. This lit up in a bright green to reveal a giant circle made of olive branches. They then released giant balloons into the night sky.
The evening then ended with a massive fireworks performance. Unfortunately from where we were sitting we didnt get to see much through the dome and had to look at the giant TV screens, although we could clearly hear the loud bangs going on for a long time.
That concluded the opening ceremonies and the games began with some track events. There was high jump, long jump, shot put, and some track events. These were all opening rounds and wouldn’t get to the medal stages till later days.
I thought there would be a parade of athletes like in the Olympics. Also sometimes the performers and singers were facing the VIP seating so had their backs to our side of the stadium. Overall I was quite impressed. I got to see an official opening ceremony for the first and probably last time. I doubt I will ever get tickets to an Olympic Games opening event, and I congratulate the organizers and performers for a wonderful show.
School Trip, Media Centre, Market Street
Monday we had a school trip to Daegu Stadium to see the games during the morning events. This was nice that students were being invited to visit and enjoy such a major event in their hometown. There were many school parties during the morning’s events and I’ve heard from other teacher friends they had school trips as well during the week.
Unfortunately for me, I live on the northern tip of Daegu, and the stadium is the southtern tip. Its taking me an hour and 45 minutes each way to get there with a combination of bus, subway, and shuttle bus. We were told to make our own way as no buses were being provided so I arrived late and had to look for my school party.
There were various track and field events going on which ended by 12.30 due to the heat. Evening events would resume after 7pm. Now that I had the day to spare I decided to wander around the event venue and make use of my access pass when there are no crowds around.
Video: Morning Womens Hurdles and High Jump
There was a large reception area with organizers who took no notice of me, so I continued walking and decided not to linger there and attract attention. There were many media people speaking various languages who had different coloured passes around their necks. I started walking to see what broadcasters were here.
By the reception were closed rooms with a glass wall. This was filled with TV panels showing all the broadcast feeds and a lot of related editing equipment. Next was a great hall with rows of tables like a cafeteria. This was filled by journalists on laptops. Along one wall were press releases and call times for various events and press conferences.
I continued down to where all the broadcast offices were. I saw doors marked with a Swedish flag and a sign for German Radio. France TV and Rai TV Italy had their own massive suites with editing rooms. I managed to find Channel 4 TV UK but the BBC were only represented by BBC Radio who had a small room with the door closed next to Channel 4. NBC also had a small room with a closed door. I saw a large room for Japan TV, as well as China.
The bulk of the space was for Korean Broadcaster KBS. On the floor plan I saw Al-Jazeera and Eurosport but I couldn’t find where they were located. There were signs for a media restaurant and press conference room so I looked for those.
To get to the press conference you enter the underground parking lot of the stadium. This is where the they had the entrance for VIP cars and the interior ramps leading into the stadium field. I found the press conference room which was a large room with chairs facing a main stage. On the stage was a long table with many microphones. The table and backdrop were draped in the IAAF logos and that of the sponsors. There were TV cameras set up in the rear.
Then I went to the Daegu Sports Museum which had been taken over as the main accreditation centre where I had received my pass on day one. Only a portion of the museum in the basement was open for visitors.
The upper floors were again restricted access but I just got in the elevator from the basement. The third floor was the Addidas Lounge. There were lots of full-size displays and promotional items. They were serving a free buffet but it wasn’t food I could eat. The second floor was the media restaurant. Again a buffet but they were charging over 10,000w. Maybe I should have gone in and got some some real media contacts.
I was following the map trying to go around the stadium to the Athletes Warm Up Area (another restricted zone I dont have access to). However, I overshot and went too far round to Market Street. Now I was really hungry and worried everything would be closed as no public events were going oin till 7pm. There was a Lotteria by the Daegu Sports Museum but it was closed.
In the market zone I found a place selling Turkish kebabs. On Saturday night I had seen Star Kebabs but this was a different vendor in another spot. Now that I was fed I had some time to explore the market area while it was empty from spectators during the afternoon heat.
TDK had a pavillion where you can take a blue screen shot at the finish line which they email to you. My experience with blue screen shots has not been good. I got the email with a jpeg file but it says ‘file is empty’ and won’t open. Samsung also had a pavillion where you can take another blue screen shot but no option to email it to yourself. Addidas also had a pavillion, as did Korean Air and Posco, and there was a car showroom.
There were many tourist info booths such as Gyeongbuk Province, PyeongChang 2018, Moscow 2013, Visit Daegu, and Daegu Medical Tours. They were handing out lots of free stuff and had a traditional tea drinking setup, and you could get a free dental check! There were also Daegu 2011 souvenirs and Sarbi mascots for sale.
One complaint about the venue was the lack of food options. I’ve been to so many festivals where so much space is devoted to food such as bibimbap, pajeon, odeng, hot dogs, waffles, fried food, and other types of Korean foods that are quick, easy to make, and suited for foot traffic. Other than the two kebab vendors, and even after complaints in the media at the start, there was very little available in terms of food.
There are no restaurants in walking distance and inside the stadium you can only buy bags of chips or pop. For the sheer volume of people there should have been many more food stalls like I’ve seen at so many festivals. This was a missed opportunity to highlight Korean cuisine. For many visitors, the stadium, airport, and hotel might be all they see of korea.
People need cooked food and protein for such a long time outdoors, not just a bag of chips and pop every day. We had to bring our own food. Every festival I’ve been to has had more food stalls and choices. They could have had a Korean food festival going on and the foreigners and visitors would have loved it.
Another complaint is the whole market area shuts down at 9pm while events continue on till sometimes 10pm. It makes sense that all the crowds are inside watching events and will leave when they are finished. The Market Street should have remained open till 11pm to deal with the crowds once they filed out of the stadium. I had to make a second trip earlier in the day to spend more time here.
The rest of the week I didnt attend as it’s a two-hour trip one-way and I would be going back Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings when Usain Bolt would be running.
Friday Usain Bolt 200m Semi Finals
The highlight of the evening was the mens 200m semis where Usain Bolt qualified, the star of the evening. Also a close contender was French runner Christophe Lemaitre who qualified in his heat.
Canada’s Dylan Armstrong won a silver in mens shotput and I attended the medal ceremony also. I used my pass to sit in the reserved area so I was sitting with coaches from Ukraine and France.
Video: Mens 200m Semi – Usain Bolt Wins
Athletes Warm Up Area, Broadcast Centre
Saturday I went back earlier in the day to spend more time in Market Street, since they had all closed up at 9pm the night before. I wanted to go back to the TDK booth to take a blue screen pic as when I got the email it said the jpeg file was empty. There was a longer lineup this time but I took the pic with my camera as well. When I got home the second jpeg still said the file is empty.
There was another blue screen pic you could take in the Samsung booth coming through the finish line. Again I used my camera as there was no option to email it. In another booth they had the starting blocks where you could take pics with a face track pic behind. The Addidas booth was taking pics of people against a wall of people’s pictures. Not sure what they were doing other than covering their wall with more pics.
I found the Athletes Experience Zone. Here you could practice on a hurdles track outside. Inside was a museum-type exhibit where you could hold a javelin to get a feel for it. The next hall over was a darkened room with more computer simulations.
There was another blue screen where you can take a pic on the medals podium or outside the stadium. I took one on the medals podium. You could email it but unfortunately the final pic is too small to really see the person. There were also computer simulations where you could run against an animated projection on a big screen.
This was a large track and field area with much less seating only on one side. Athletes were practicing on the track and on one side hurdles were set up. The middle of the field was grass where officials and coaches were watching and talking. Around the perimeter of the track were tents for each nation’s athletes. Some were full of athletes sitting and warming up, others were empty.
There was a live feed from the stadium on the large screen. By the gate was a call sheet with the athletes’ event start times. By the gate was a large covered building. Inside was a weight training room, massage room, medical staff, and ice room.
I headed towards the stadium, as the events were starting at 7pm. We were on a private route and it led me into one of the restricted parts of the stadium for coaches and athletes. Instead of going into the basement where the athletes enter the field, I went up to try to get a good seat.
I didnt realize it but this entrance is where all the media pods overlooking the stadium were. There were rows of broadcasters from different nations wearing their headsets and monitoring their feeds. Some were setting up for a live shot with their network. Earlier I had met two CBC Radio reporters who told me where they were sitting but I wasn’t sure.
The Daegu Games is a once-in-a-lifetime event for me, as I dont think I’ll ever get to go to an Olympics or major sporting event like this again. I’m very grateful for my pass which not only allowed me free entrance every day, but unofficially gave me clearance to so many restricted zones attendees never get to see.
Saturday Usain Bolt 200m Finals
The weekend events tended to be a bit more of a celebration. Many athletes were doing victory laps to cheers from the crowd. There were many medal ceremonies for the finals. We had to keep standing for different national anthems. USA, Russia, and Jamaica were the most played, but we also got to hear UK, Canada, Germany, and one or two others.
Canada won gold in the womens wheelchair race and this was the only time I heard the Canadian anthem played. Korean athletes always got the wildest cheers when they entered but I never saw them win any events. Kenya had a strong finish in both mens and womens distance running.
The crowd also got into quite a fever pitch and managed to get a wave started around the arena. I counted four times round the ring. Another fun interlude act was “Dance Time” and “Kiss Time” when random spectators were chosen on camera to fulfill their task. The Jamaicans were easy pickings for dance time, they were easy to spot in the stadium with their colours and flags and were always enthusiastic performers.
Video: Crowds doing the wave
The biggest star of the evening was Usain Bolt and the final event was his mens 200m final. After his dissapointing start last Sunday when he was disqualified from the mens 100m final, this was the race crowds had been waiting to see. He entertained the audience by playing along with the cartoon of the mascot telling people to ‘shoosh’ and be quiet.
Usain was victorious in his event and easily won, despite the strong French contender Christophe Lemaitre. He was greeted by a large group of media at the finish line who followed him on his victory lap, sometimes mobbing him. Usain also entertained with his signature dance which I’m sure will make it onto Youtube and into some music videos.
Usain was undoubtebly the star of the night’s events, and failed to dissapoint the many spectators, some of whom were crowded as far back as the stadium ceiling.
Sunday Usain Bolt 4x100m World Record
The celebrations continued on the final night, as many athletes were doing victory laps, many medal ceremonies took place, and anthems were played. Russian, USA, and Kenya were probably played the most. There were still several finals taking place through all the excitement.
The womens hammer throw finals were the last field event while the mens triple jump finals were taking place. Also there was the womens 4x100m relay heats and finals.
It was a good night for Russia. They won gold in the womens hammer throw and distance running. A cheering Russian family with hats and flags sat a few rows ahead of us. The Russian anthem was probably played the most that evening.
After a long final heat, the USA was victorious in the mens triple jump. The UK also won one of their few medals in the mens 1500m and we all stood for God Save the Queen.
However, the main highlight was the evening’s final race, the mens 4x100m relay. I thought Usain Bolt was done, having won the mens 200m race on Saturday night. I wasn’t sure if he was going to be part of the relay team or not. To wild cheers from the crowd it turned out he was, even though he wasn’t in the qualifying round. Seems they saved the best till last.
The Jamaicans’ risk in holding Usain back till the final round paid off. Not only did they win the mens 4x100m relay, they also set a new World Record. Usain, the final runner, easily pulled ahead of the other runners as he cruised over the finish line.
This was Usain’s night to celebrate. Already on a high from the previous night’s mens 200m win, the crowd and media were in a frenzy with yet another win. Usain was in the partying mood and gave us another performance of his now famous victory dance.
Video: Usain Bolt Mens 4×100 Relay Victory and World Record with Victory Dance
This was quite an exciting finale and we waited now as they cleared the area for the closing ceremonies, which was sure to be another grand show.
The Daegu IAAF closing ceremonies were a grand finale to the nine-day event. First a group of singers entered the main stage set up on the field with an opening act. As they sang, a large parade of volunteers, officials, judges, athletes, and flag bearers entered the field.
Video: Closing Ceremonies Part 1 – Parade of Flags and Volunteers
They made a ring around the field and filed into the main stadium. Many were in a festive mood and started their own conga line once on the field.
Then were the final award ceremonies. After awarding the womens relay medals they saved the two Usain Bolt events for the final, the mens 200m and the mens 4x100m relay. Unfortunately this time I was on the opposite side of the stadium with friends so could only see the athletes’ backs except for the big screen.
The final medal ceremony was for the race just run, the mens 4×100 relay where Usain’s Jamaican team just set a World Record. Unfortunately my batteries decided to die so I only have a few seconds recorded. The team was also awarded a cheque for $100,000 USD. I’ve been playing the Usain Bolt videos to the my students and they all know when he whispers to keep quiet so I do it with them when they get too rowdy.
After the anthem were the official ceremonies. Royal guards entered to lower the IAAF flag. This was then passed to the delegates on the main stage who passed it to one another. Then was the official handing over of the flag from Daegu 2011 to Moscow 2013, which was presented with a video preview.
This was followed by a female soloist singer, after which the crowd went berzerk as the boy group JYJ entered. They did a choreographed dance show, again with their backs to us, as a spectacular fireworks show lit up and thundered in the sky.
There was then a surge in the crowds as everyone tried to leave the stadium. Shuttle buses were provided to the subway but we had to walk each night as you couldn’t find the end of the line, as it was too long, and the wait would have been longer than the 20-minute walk to the subway. The organizers tried their best to provide transport services; it was easier getting the shuttle to the stadium if you came early. But they couldn’t cope with the volume at the end.
I’m glad I had the opportunity to visit the games in my hometome. I’ve never been to the Olympics or World Cup and doubt I’ll get the chance, with ridiculous hotels, airfare, and ticket prices. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me to have it on my doorstep. I don’t know if the people in London will have it as good with the amounts of crowds and tourists they get.
I’m grateful for the nine-day pass I was given even though I had already bought tickets for the closing weekend events on Saturday and Sunday. It allowed me into areas I would have never seen such as the athletes warmup area, broadcasters booths, media centre, and press conference room.
I think I could have even used it on closing ceremonies night to be part of the parade on the field but then I wouldn’t have gotten the pics I did, or even Usain Bolt’s Press Conference if I tried! The weekend was the Usain Bolt show and he entertained both on and off the track, and didn’t dissapoint.
I think Daegu did an overall great job. It seems like the whole city came to watch the games and they weren’t dissapointed. Just having feelings of withdrawals now as you get used to going to the stadium daily. But then there’s the Incheon Asian Games in 2014 and PyeongChang Winter Olympics in 2018 so looks like this will be a good decade for Korean sporting events.
* The original piece can be read HERE.