Thursday, 28 October 2010
The first thing is the race itself. Rain caused huge problems. The track had blatantly not been tested enough in such conditions and caused difficulties with large amounts of spray coming from the cars, leading to long delays as the track dried up. It also resulted in the first 17 laps being raced behind a pace car and the race being completed amidst a darkening sky and poor visibility. The winner went to the Spanish driver Fernando Alonso, who leapfrogged Mark Webber (who retired early) into first position. But yes, it was exciting. The conditions made for a very unpredictable Grand Prix that is being hailed in the Western media as a “classic”.
The build-up had been mostly negative, with worries over the completion of the track and lack of facilities being to the fore. It was easy to see why at Yeongam on Sunday. The track was finished, but nothing else seemed fit for public consumption. The surrounding area was a building site. Mountains of rubble, piles of scaffolding and huge potholes greeted attendees as they caught an unfortunate first glimpse of Korean hospitality. It was a real shame that they couldn’t get their act together sooner and make the splendid venue the occasion deserved as it offers a tainted view of a country that really is a great place to live.
There was very little race information available at Yeongam. Nor was there anything to eat or drink. We managed to find one Family Mart, in a venue built to host 120,000 people. It’s a ridiculous statement. If they really wish to turn the Korea International Circuit into the “Las Vegas of Asia”, they have a long way to go. Perhaps focusing on the basics and learning to walk before they can run might be a good start, but there were plenty of hungry revelers bussing back to
There were, however, some positives to report. The attendance was much larger than anticipated. Some forecasts had expected less than half the tickets to sell out, however from where we were sat, it looked like there were many more. People were in good spirits and the rain, which could have potentially dampen them, didn’t seem to have much effect at all. The race is finished now and after a while, that’s all people will remember. The Korean Grand Prix has a contract to continue in the area for seven years. This presents a huge opportunity for KAVO and the local and central governments to invest heavily in the infrastructure and transport links that have been universally slated. If they do so, then the Korean people will have a venue and an event to add to all of the other facets of their culture they are deeply proud of.
Written for Gwangju Blog
Sunday, 24 October 2010
Thursday, 21 October 2010
A day that was filled with promise turned into a case of what might have been. The first annual Daejeon Rock Festival guaranteed good music, world food and international beer. It barely delivered on any of the fronts. The festival was stopped at around 11pm (having been billed until 5am) due to complaints over noise pollution. The food fair was shoddily put together: three hundred advertised vendors shrunk drastically to about a dozen overpriced and confused (samosas come from
Nonetheless, it was beautiful to be able to bask in the last rays of sunlight before the onset of winter in the pleasant setting of the Daejeon Convention Centre. What survived of the music was a mixed bag, but for the most part enjoyable. One serious gripe, however, is that there were few announcements or little information on big screens to differentiate one band from the next. The whole thing had an amateurish feel about it… a shame, really, given the picturesque surroundings. The stage was thrust in amongst the apartment blocks and as the sunset, the backdrop was stunning. Hundreds of lanterns were raised to the sky and everybody was gearing up for a long night of music.
The first band was a shock to the system, proving that Screamcore is alive and well in
The third band to take the stage, Kickscotch, was arguably the most impressive. A female fronted quartet, they continued the brash rockiness of the precursors. The lead singer was reminiscent of PJ Harvey, head swirling and playing a flying V that completely dwarfed her. The music itself was more like an R-rated B-52s: call and response vocals, delivered over muscular riffs.
Kickscotch were followed on by the Seoul City Suicides, another riff heavy three-piece recalling
A largely forgettable EMO ensemble were next up, followed by the strangely monikered, Skasucks. Apparently there is a healthy ska scene in
Shortly after, we realized there wouldn’t be anymore music. What was supposed to have gone on for eleven hours, lasted for around half that. Organizers had seemingly not fully considered the setting of the venue, in the midst of some large apartment buildings. Complaints over noise pollution resulted in the plug being pulled on an eventful, yet anti-climactic day in Daejeon.
Friday, 15 October 2010
Monday, 11 October 2010
Written for Gwangju Blog
The World Cup Stadium in Gwangju isn’t full at the best of times, so you can almost understand the paucity of supporters for Gwangju Sangmu’s K-League game on Sunday against Suwon Bluewings. After all, before kick-off, Sangmu were lying second from bottom. They’d scored thirteen goals in twenty games and recorded a paltry 3 victories. Talk of a citizen team to replace the current military set-up will no doubt be welcomed, but for now, we must make do with the soldiers! But that’s not to say a trip to watch them in action isn’t worthwhile. For fans of “the beautiful game” in Gwangju, it’s a chance to see professional soccer at a decent level. For those yet to awaken to its splendor, it’s a nice day out, in comfortable surroundings.
Suwon arrived at the Guus Hiddink Stadium as strong favorites, seven places ahead of Sangmu in the league table and one of the traditional powerhouses of Korean soccer, having won the K-League four times and the Asian Champions League twice. The difference between the two sets of supporters was marked: the
The play was scrappy. Any form of attack was strictly of the Route One variety, over the top. But just when it looked as though the spoils were to be shared at half time, Hong Soon-Hak broke free of his marker and was fouled in the area, with Gwangju conceding a penalty in the forty third minute. Japanese international and former Boca Juniors and Eintracht Frankfurt striker Naohiro Takahara stepped up and made no mistake from twelve yards
With the deadlock broken, both teams emerged for the second period a little more adventurously. Gwangju’s captain Choi Sung-Kuk went close with a volley from just outside the box, which was a harbinger for more involvement in the game from the influential forward. Suwon pushed on looking for a second, leaving gaps at the back, gaps the Sangmu forward line failed to capitalize on until late on. Gwangju’s Korean World Cup star, Kim Jung-Woo had a quiet game, but it was his mazy run past a couple of Bluewings defenders that led to the equalizer, after he was felled in the area.
The referee didn’t hesitate in pointing to the spot, and up stepped that man Choi again to fire past the keeper, high into the roof of the net. It was a goal Gwangju’s second half performance arguably deserved, but the military team could have snatched the victory as the game crept towards stoppage time. Choi again made space for himself in the
A point, though, is of little use to Gwangju. They are still hovering a single place from the foot of the table in what has been a disappointing season. Here is hoping the talk of a citizen team comes to fruition. This city deserves a quality, committed soccer team.