Thursday, 28 October 2010

Korean Grand Prix Appraisal

After all the build-up, all the excitement, all the naysaying and all the expectation, the Korean Grand Prix has been and went. Formula 1 has left Yeongam for another year and as the dust begin to settle, it’s becoming a bit clearer what conclusions we can draw from the occasion.

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 Mokpo, Gwangju and further afield after the race. On a related note, the transport links between the cities were abysmal too. There were shuttle buses leaving from Gwangju every hour in the build up to the race, but only one. One bus from the nearest big city is nothing short of a disgrace.

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

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