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PyeongChang Up Close
Written by Rachel Lee | Published. 2018.03.03 15:46 | Count : 363
I remember my grandfather promising me to buy me tickets to the PyeongChang Olympics when the location for the 2018 Winter Olympics was confirmed. I was in the third grade, and 2018 seemed like millennia away. I was not even sure if my grandfather could buy the tickets; I was confident that they would be sold out in a second. 

Six years had passed, and to be honest, I had completely forgotten that the Olympics were coming up until the teachers at my school kept asking us if we were going to watch anything. Nearly half of my class would raised their hands, and some of them had even participated in the torch relay event, but it was not enough to pull me out of the laziness that kept me from ordering tickets. It was only until I realized that it was a once- in-a-lifetime opportunity that I finally asked my mom if we could look at the available events on the Olympic website. 

Contrary to what I had predicted years ago, there were plenty of tickets to left even days before the competition. I really wanted to go see ice dancing because I loved the Shibutani siblings from Team USA, but my obligations toward schoolwork did not allow that. Instead, I went to go see the ice hockey game between Slovakia and USA. Ice hockey was one of the Olympic sports which I completely understood the rules of, so I was excited to go and watch the game while exhibiting my nationalistic pride for the United States. 

[Photo taken by Rachel Lee]

Because I went during the Lunar holiday, there were not any KTX train tickets left to buy, so my mom and I rode the Express bus all the way to Gangneung(Due to facility requirements, all of the ice events were held in Gangneung). Even though it was my first time riding an express bus, I could tell that mostof express bus experiences were not like what I experienced. The bus was jam-packed with foreigners: mostly Americans but a few Canadians. They were all traveling to to watch the games of their home countries. Even though I tried to sleep on the way, the boisterous conversation in English going on behind me kept me awake for hours. It was like I was in North America instead of in the middle of nowhere in Korea. 

[Photo taken by Rachel Lee]

Stepping out of the bus and walking into the Olympic area was a bit of a letdown. I had expected a more variegated array of restaurants and meal caterers to choose from; there were only two to three. The gift shop was not any better. It seemed to completely focus on Suhorang and Bandabi (the Pyeongchang 2018 mascots), which logically made sense, but I thought that the Olympic committee could have sold souvenirs that had to do with the Winter sports themselves more.  

[Photo taken by Rachel Lee]

The ice hockey game itself was an entirely different story. Sitting almost right in front of the ice rink, I had an excellent view of the game. Although I do not normally shout or chant during sports games, I was screaming, “Let’s go, USA” the entire game. By the end, my voice was starting to get sore. I was pumped up because it is not normal to get to cheer for America in an Asian country. Most of my equally excited fellow Americans next to me in the stands facilitated the nationalism in the air. Everyone was decked out in red, white, and blue.

[Photo taken by Rachel Lee]

However, not everything was sweet and polite. A pair of brothers from the States near me were constantly cursing at the Slovakian goalie, who was right in front of us and could probably hear the crude comments (“Lako, you’re garbage!).

[Photo taken by Rachel Lee]

Although I cannot say that my Olympic experience wasn’t that of what 8-year old Rachel would have imagined (I think it would have been a more variegated experience if the facilities catered to a wider range of nationalities and ages), it was just as exciting. With my home country winning the game by 2-1, I felt even more unified with my fellow Americans. Although the Olympics’ purpose is to host a sports conference for the most talented athletes in the world, I could feel firsthand that it also holds the power to bring countries and citizens together.


Rachel Lee
Grade 9 
Seoul International School

Rachel Lee  student_reporter@dherald.com

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