Incheon welcomes medley of sports
Despite being labeled as a test event ahead of the 17th Asian Games Incheon 2014, it is more meaningful than that. Completely distinct from the winter and summer Asian games, indoor sports and martial arts games were two separate events from 2005 to 2009. The upcoming competition is the very first year that the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) has endorsed a combined event. In total, 4,000 people from 45 OCA member countries are expected to gather in Incheon, including 1,700 athletes, executives and members of the media.
The organizers are confident that the event will be refreshing and fun to watch because the sports are not easily found at other large international games. The games consist of 12 unique sports ranging from baduk, also known as Go, and bowling to Muay Thai and indoor Kabaddi, a mixture of hide-and-seek, dodgeball and martial arts originating from India. Besides dance sports, futsal and short-course swimming, smaller-scale sports are grouped together in nine games.
E-sports will ignite Asian game mania. Originating in Korea and popular in China, Taiwan and Southeast Asian countries, they include famous games like Starcraft II, FIFA, Special Force, Tekken and Need for Speed. League of Legends, referred to as “LOL” by domestic fans, will enter the Asian games for the first time. It is expected to be extremely popular as its premiere in 2011 shook the entire nation.
Billiard-style sports like pool, snooker, English billiards and three cushion will also be included. Although Korea is not very competitive in snooker, female pool players certainly are. Taiwan and the Philippines are attempting to challenge players like Kim Ga-young and Cha Yu-ram.
Dance sport is quite popular nationwide with 17 competitions on Korean soil every year. The Korean team has worked hard to win six medals this time, challenging Asian No. 1 China.
Futsal, a kind of indoor football, brought in the highest number of athletes. Nearly 600 players will have games every day until the last day of competition. Short-course swimming is taking place at a 25-meter pool rather than a 50-meter pool and has been subdivided into as many as 30 categories.
K1 star Lim Su-jeong and other male fighters will take part in Muay Thai, targeting two gold medals. Korean teams are also expecting gold in baduk and Kurash.
On the morning of June 29, a torch relay will begin the Asian gathering. As the city is proud of the birth myth of Korea at Mount Mani, western Incheon, seven mythical fairies will light the torch there, which will be handed over to 120 people. The city plans to livecast the relay online.
Film directors Im Kwon-taek and Jang Jin are in charge of planning the opening and closing ceremonies. With Incheon’s three key virtues of openness, diversity and magnanimity, the ceremonies are themed to embrace various sports that are popular in Asia but still lacking recognition worldwide. The host city invites its citizens to participate as choir members and flag holders, keeping their interest in the games. For the first time in the country, the organizers plan to paper the ceremony hall’s three walls with LEC screens. As part of efforts to showcase next year’s Asian Games as a cutting-edge, technology-oriented sports event, the committee will also use various mobile applications this year and run test events. It developed a mobile application that provides the current status of the games and medal count.
Almost 8,000 volunteer applications came in during the selection process, more than three times the number needed. In April, 2,560 of them were selected after six screening sessions throughout Incheon and some cities in Gyeonggi. Until the games begin, they will participate in training sessions and on-site practice.
Serving 400 foreign VIP guests is another crucial goal. The organizers have prepared procedures to accompany guests to the airport, hotels and stadium. To exceed standards set during past international events, they will assign 200 agents and provide cars and security guards. The guests will also be provided with free rental phones. The organizing committee also recruited about 250 part- and full-time interpreters in order to prevent any inconvenience.
There will be a welcome event for prestigious guests on the eve of opening day. Some 300 representatives of each country’s national Olympic committee have been invited. During the ceremony, there will be a multicultural fashion show featuring traditional costumes of OCA member countries. Chongdong Theater’s long-running traditional musical “Miso” - meaning smile in Korean - will be performed as dinner is being served. The musical tells the Tale of Chunhyang nonverbally with only traditional music and dance.
To attract larger audiences, a promotional campaign is also underway to encourage people to watch at least one game. Groups of more than 30 people will receive discounts - 30 percent for adults and 50 percent for students. Audience members can watch billiards, chess, baduk, short-course swimming, bowling and futsal games for free. Ticket reservations have been available online since mid-April. Tickets for the opening and closing ceremonies are priced at 50,000 won ($45) for third class, 100,000 won for second class and 200,000 won for first class.