Sunday, 9 June 2013

Seoul's Olympic Park

In 1988, South Korea became the 20th nation - the 2nd in Asia, after Japan - to hold the Olympic games. Hosting such a major, worldwide event was seen as an opportunity for the country to showcase its miraculous, newly-industrialised economy to the international community, and to further boost tourism and overseas investment. Athletes from 159 nations competed in the games, which lasted 16 days and were presented under the theme of Peace, Harmony and Progress. South Korea won 12 gold medals and came in 4th place overall, its highest Olympic ranking to date.

Despite various countries boycotting the event (a pretty common occurrence for international tournaments held in the Cold War era), the games were widely considered a success. In fact, not only did they help establish Seoul as a leading global city, but they also directly led to the inauguration of a democratic government in the country. In 1987 the Korean people had held numerous political demonstrations against President Chun Doo-Hwan, who had led a decade-long dictatorship and been partly responsible for the Gwangju massacre of 1980. Fearful of the effect that these demonstrations might have on the games, the government issued President Chun out of power and held its first democratic elections at the end of 1987, leading to an Olympic games untainted by riots or totalitarianism.

Now, 25 years later, the biggest remaining monument to the games is Seoul's Olympic Park, which is still in use as a recreational space. Filled with commemorative monuments, outdoor sculptures, and over 1000 square metres of natural greenery, it provides a pleasant place for citizens of Seoul to wander, relax, and spend time with family and friends. Most of its stadiums and gymnasiums are still intact and some are occasionally used to hold sporting events and performances. Angela and I visited the park on a recent sunday afternoon, taking some photos along the way.

Entering the park from Olympic Park station.

A piece of art called "Impersonation Station" by Dennis Oppenheim.
Angela walks on an acupuncture path.

The Olympic Gymnasium.
And the swimming pool.
Posing in front of a pretty fountain.

We walked along a pathway that ran along a crest of hills, providing great views of the park.

A pretty flower plantation.

This little dude was chilling in the shade. Can't blame him - it was a hot day!

After much walking, we sat down for a while to watch this jazz-rock band.

Approaching the Peace Gate.

The Olympic Flame, or a remnant of it.

If you're interested in visiting Olympic Park yourself, you can easily get there via Olympic Park station on Line 5, or via Mongchontoseong Station on Line 8.

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