The Olympic Community is in good hands in Korea
PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA -FEBRUARY 14: General view of the PyeongChang Olympic stadium at the Opening Ceremony of the to the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, South Korea (Photo by Vincent Ethier/COC)
It took me a while to realize on my first day as a journalist in Korea that we were all eating in an underground parking lot. And but for the tidy rivers of over-head wiring and countless square pillars – each immaculately wrapped in colourful “Passion. Connected.” Olympic-branded fabric – you really would have little idea that that was indeed the case.
But this is Pyeongchang, Korea on the cusp of the start of the 23rd Winter Olympic Games. And now, after a few days on the ground here, eating in such a clean, multi-use facility just makes sense to me.
These Games are exceptionally well organized in every respect that I’ve seen (a slightly errant cab ride from the brand new station of the brand new KTX bullet train notwithstanding).
Even media who have covered several Olympic Winter Games – veteran journalists who have likely seen, heard and tasted all that the Olympic movement has on offer – are taken by how everything is running so smoothly.
The Olympic community is in very good hands here.
For example, many members of the media sleep in the Gangneung Media Village in the Coastal Cluster (i.e., near all the ice sports venues) and we work in the International Broadcast Centre in the Alpensia Cluster, home to sliding events, among others. The buses that move us to and fro on this route are scheduled to take approximately 32 minutes. I’m yet to be on one that didn’t take 31 minutes, almost to the second.
And it’s not just transportation. Media eat a lot, no question. And that creates a waste management and recycling challenge of, well, Olympic proportions.
Yet, as with all other aspects of Pyeongchang so far, volunteers and staff are there to assist. Don’t know which recycle bin to use for paper, plastic and/or food? At least two volunteers are readily on hand to help, defaulting to friendly conversational English in helping journalists from around the world move through ubiquitous recycle bins and get back to telling stories.
And that’s the thing about the Games – they bring people together from different walks of life, and from different corners of the planet. They create and maintain communities.
Yesterday I saw a perfect case in point.
Two men, likely in their early 50s and wearing the jackets of different broadcasters, warmly embraced near the underground coffee station (there are many in said parking garage-cum-restaurant).
“I haven’t seen you since Turin,” bellowed one to the other as they rekindled a friendship that had apparently been on hold since they last worked the Games together in Italy in 2006. Twelve years later, with the Olympics as their gravitational pull, they are back together to bear witness to a spectacle of human experience.
The athletes, of course, are the stars of this global stage. And based on what I’ve seen so far, those athletes are competing in a massive event in which the smallest of details, so far at least, have been tended to by our Korean hosts.
This article was written for The Oakville Community Foundation on behalf of Steven Bright, a volunteer with the foundation.
Follow Steven on twitter @brightsteven22 and his journey throughout the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang!