So on the first day, I went to see the women's 10k Cross-Country Free race.
At first, I didn't think it was going to be that interesting as a spectator sport, certainly not in the $20 standing area as opposed to the $80 seats on the opposite side because the only thing you get to see on my side were the athletes leaving the starting gate, coming back through upon having finished their first loop around the track and then coming back in to cross the finish line. (I went for the cheaper tickets because I originally hadn't planned on going to this event and bought the tickets last minute) The spectators sitting in the $80 seats had a better viewing advantage than those who only paid $20 to be able to watch the event from the standing area. The announcer was on their side of the track and the large screen where they could watch the live feed from the rest of the track was facing them. That is not to say that standing on my side didn't have its advantages either. To be honest being on the standing area side provided me with some great vantage points in which to get some good shots of the athletes as they went by.
Despite my initial worry, I found the event to be a lot more interesting than I had originally thought it was going to be. Even though cross-country skiing isn't exactly the greatest of spectator sports out there, the combination of the commentator who did a fantastic job of keeping everyone in high spirits, and the spectators from all of their various countries and the energy given off by the athletes themselves, I readily found myself smiling and wanting to run back and forth trying to get as many possible pictures as I could so that I could remember this day for the rest of my life.
(The Women's 10k Cross-country free athletes waiting for their starting times)
When I bought the tickets to this event I had no idea who Charlotte Kalla was. It wasn't until I came home from work on the first day of the Olympics, turned on the TV and found out that the first Gold medal had been won by none other than Charlotte Kalla. So you can understand my excitement and surprise when I realized that she would also be performing in this event as well! I mean I was actually going to see an actual gold medal athlete in person and not just on some TV screen! She had rather large fan base rooting for her as well. There was even a group of 7-10 people who all had North Face Style jackets with her face printed on them! Now that’s team dedication!
(Charlotte Kalla crossing the finish line)
(Charlotte Kalla at the award ceremony about to receive the Silver medal)
There were a lot of strong skiers out there, but I would have to say that one of the more memorable ones was the skier from North Korea. It wasn't because her performance was that spectacular because in truth, she finished last. What impressed me the most about her was her unwillingness to quit. I am not sure about the facts on this, however I doubt that North Korea has a very long history with Cross Country Skiing. As I watched her come complete her first loop around the track you could see how tired she was. It was obvious that she was really fatigued. At one point she was so tired that fell down and off the track!
(The North Korean skier on the last stretch of the race)
Towards the end of the race, some people started to leave (probably wanting to get a head start back to the bus) but the announcer did a good job trying to keep people there to watch and support the last skiers as they came through. After a while the last skier (The North Korean) came around the bend for the last 200-300 meters of the race. The North Koreans started chanting in unison and it has now become one my most memorable memories here in South Korea. Not just because I was there to witness her coming over the finish line but because I could understand what they were saying without needing to have someone translate it for me. For those of you have caught glimpses of the North Koreans chanting on your TV screens at home, what they are saying is " ooh-ree-nun, ha-na-da" which means "We Are One"
(The North Korean spectators before the masses started coming in. The sign reads "We Are One")
Perhaps that is what I like about the Olympics so much. In the beginning we go into the games as divided nations but at various points during the course of the Olympic Games we can be reminded that we are in fact "one"