Of all the big numbers we see in Jeju — 12 million visitors a year, for example — the 95th National Sports Festival is near the top of the list.
The festival kicks off at 4:20 p.m. on Oct. 28 at the main venue at the Jeju Sports Complex in Jeju City.
There are 44 official sporting events scheduled, and about 26,000 athletes and 6,000 officials will be arriving to compete at 74 venues all over the island. All the events are free to the public.
Many sports fans are awaiting the arrival of some of their favorite homegrown Korean star athletes. Swimmer and Olympic gold medalist Park Tae-hwan (박태환) will be competing; as will Olympians Nam Hyun-hee (남현희) and Yang Hak-seon (양학선) in their respective fields of fencing and gymnastics.
This festival has required a lot of preparation by the province in the last two years. The total budget amounts to about 100 billion won, with 80 percent of that going to facility renovations and improvements.
As the final countdown approaches zero, things appear ready to go. The airport and local hotels are geared up to receive thousands of added visitors. Festival venue direction signs have popped up around the island.
In Jeju City, the Jeju Sports Complex in Ora-dong has undergone a major facelift in the past two years or so. In particular, the eight-lane 50-meter swimming pool now has room to seat 2,000 spectators, and main stadium, which seats 20,000, has been completely refurbished. Another eight venues at the complex also had work done on them.
In Seogwipo, off the coast at Ojo-ri, Seongsan-eup, the waterskiing and canoeing events will be held. This is an absolutely beautiful area, with an amazing view of Seongsan Sunrise Peak.
Apart from the athletics, the organizers have lined up a number of events highlighting Jeju and Jeju culture, including music, food, and sightseeing. At the main venue in the Jeju Sports Complex, people will have a chance to do things like see classical and modern music performances, and do some hands-on pottery making, among other activities.
Organizers have also set up trips to the outer regions of the island, including tours to O’Sulloc tea fields and Olle Course 10 in the southwest, and in the east, to Seopjikoji (섭지코지), a popular tourist destination.
And throughout the week, of course all these hungry athletes will need to be fed, and so they’ll be able to enjoy many traditional Jeju foods.
Naturally, it hasn’t been all smooth sailing. Last month’s Asian Games in Incheon, for example, seems to have stolen some of the spotlight from the National Sports Festival.
And more controversially, fewer than 10 days before the start of the equestrian events, the Korea Equestrian Federation announced that the competition will not be held here, but back on the mainland.
This announcement took Jeju officials completely by surprise. For one, the festival rules state that any changes in venue must be announced three months in advance. The province, too, spent 7.2 billion won on facilities and other preparations for the equestrian events at Jeju National University. These will now go unused.
Governor Won Heeryong condemned the decision and promised to investigate and possibly have the province take legal action.
The National Sports Festival, which is an annual event, last came to Jeju 12 years ago, in 2002. Organizers move the hosting around the country to give each region an opportunity. It began back in 1920, and generally has been held regularly since then.
It is being organized and sponsored by a large number of organizations and governmental bodies, includes the Korean Sports Council, Jeju Special Self-Governing Province, the Jeju Provincial Office of Education, the Jeju Sports Association, and the Ministry of Culture, among others.
Unfortunately there is no complete schedule and timetable available in English, but the detailed schedule in Korean is at 2014sports.kr.
This a reworked article, written by the author, which first appeared on KCTV English News. — Ed.