Gangneung Speedskating Arena (Oval) was the site of a high-profile women’s 500-meter speedskating race at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics that pitted “ice legend” Lee Sang-hwa against opponent Nao Kodaira (JPN). The “friendship competition” between the two athletes remains one of the most memorable moments of the Games to date. However, Gangneung Oval has not been used as an ice rink since the Pyeongchang Olympics due to operational costs. After six years of being used as a movie set, the rink was put back on ice. This is thanks to the 2024 Gangwon Winter Youth Olympic Games (hereinafter referred to as 2024 Gangwon), which summoned the dormant ‘memories of Pyeongchang’. Starting on March 19, Gangneung City, Pyeongchang County, Jeongseon County, and Hwaseong County in Gangwon Province will host an adventure of youth from around the world united by sport. 1,803 athletes from 79 countries will showcase their hard-earned talents in 15 sports, including skating, ice hockey, curling (on ice), bobsleigh, skeleton, luge (sliding), and skiing (on snow), until the first of next month.
The event will feature 100 percent utilization of the facilities from the PyeongChang Olympics. As this is a place where young people’s dreams can come true, the organizing committee is also checking the last-minute preparations. Major venues such as the Ice Arena, Oval, Hockey Center (Gangneung), Alpensia Ski Jumping Center, and Biathlon Center (Pyeongchang), which we visited over two days on the 11th and 12th of this month, were mostly ready. In particular, the Biathlon Center held a national tournament for the Minister of Culture, Sports, and Tourism Cup before the 2024 Gangwon Games and completed a practical inspection. Oval, which hadn’t been used for a long time, was also tested for de-icing and was evaluated as having “better ice quality than Taereung International Skating Center.”
After witnessing the ‘Saemangeum Jamboree disaster’ last year, the Gangwon 2024 organizers are making sure that there are no problems with accommodation and food. “Accommodation is one of the most important parts of training and competing,” said Jang Jang-ran, Vice Minister of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, who also tasted the food for the athletes. “We plan to reinforce the space, transportation, and food as much as possible so that they don’t feel uncomfortable.”
With the preparations for the Games already in place, the final “puzzle piece” is now in place. The organizers’ next challenge is to generate “interest” to support the youth in their endeavors. The organizers are looking forward to welcoming visitors with a dynamic opening ceremony and plenty of activities.
The opening ceremony will be directed by Yang Jeong-woong, who made waves with his in-my-face bird performance and drone show at the PyeongChang Olympics opening ceremony. The opening ceremony for Gangwon 2024 will have a youthful dynamism instead of glamor. “We want to convey the message that each youth living in a huge universe is a ‘microcosm,'” Yang said at a press conference at the Seamark Hotel in Gangneung on Nov. 11. “It’s a story about ‘we,’ a mountain girl from Gangwon Province who dreams of becoming an astronaut, traveling through space in an imaginary world and meeting herself as a future astronaut.” In addition to the opening ceremony, Gangwon 2024 will feature a variety of attractions and cultural events for youth, including a “digital torch” that emphasizes the value of sustainability and K-pop performances.
“We have done our best to make the Games safer and more comfortable than any other Olympic Games in history, and to create an event that is full of Korean charm,” said Minister of Culture, Sports, and Tourism Yoo In-chon. “I hope you can enjoy the friendships, challenges, and adventures of young people on site.”