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03/06/2018 Special > Opinion


[Op-ed] The Backstage of the Olympics, Gwandong Hockey Center

A journal after an 18-day dream


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The 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics finished successfully thanks to  millions of people participating and lending a hand to the procedures of the Olympics. I myself also took part in the Gwandong Hockey Center, as a translator in the Sports Presentation Department (SPP) for 18 days. The actual field of the Olympics required much more work than normal people think and was concluded successfully due to the participants’ hard work.

What was my job?

The Olympics do not require solely the players on the field. For a game to run, announcers have to tell the crowd what’s going on and increase their excitement through music and videos. Various entertainment consisting of celebrity appearances and unique events during the intermission periods     are also required. All of these tasks listed above are accomplished through the SPP. They mostly work inside the control room, divided as the audio, video, entertainment team and the announcers. Therefore, all of the videos, excluding the actual broadcast of the games, and all of the sound the spectators hear are the result of the SPP’s work. Within these complicated procedures, I worked as a translator on the video team, in the SPP of the Gwandong Hockey Center.

The blue box seen in the center of the picture is the control room.


As the Olympics are an international event, it is not only Koreans working behind the stage. On the video team, the team directors were American, with the rest of the video team – the editors, playback operators, camera directors and the runners being Korean. That meant that the translators had to know everything going on in the video team and had to make simultaneous translations during the whole Olympic period. Each person on the video team had their own roles, and translators had the extra job of writing daily reports related to all of the videos played that day.

The SPPs schedule’ was decided by the number of games that day. People would go to work four hours before the start of the first game. The doors for the spectators open an hour and a half before the game, meaning they have to be fully ready in two hours. Therefore, when we had three games, we had to leave our accommodation at 7:20 a.m. in the morning and come back around 12:30 to 1:00 a.m. at night. People generally had four hours of sleep everyday and then continued their work. Playback operators checked new daily videos and kept track of them while the editors made new highlight videos of the games and various announcement videos. The camera directors and the runners went through the events and performances planned for the day, since their filming had to be played live on the electronic display board. All questions, instructions and comments were translated by me, including the cameras filming events and performances.

Each and every one in the Olympics worked hard behind the scenes.

The woman hockey, Team Corea

Not only was Gwandong Hockey Center my workplace, but it was also the center of attention during the Olympics. North and South Korea’s unified team played in the Gwandong Hockey Center, pulling in great attention worldwide. Even though Team Corea lost their matches, media outlets around the world payed attention to the games and the incidents surrounding them. Personally, being able to watch all of the incidents going on in the arena, I was able to come back home with unique experiences.

After Team Corea's game ended, loud cheers were heard in the arena. The cheer squad in red also caught the spectators' eyes during the game.

During the first game of Team Corea, North Korea’s cheering squad was present in the arena. As I normally stand beside the stage before the game and during intermissions, I was able to have a full view of the spectators and was able to see flocks of red. Endless lines of women in red clothes entered, filling up the seats one by one in several groups all around the arena. They seemed to stay still, but all of a sudden, they started cheering all at once. They continued cheering during the pre-games and intermissions, with no one leaving for the bathroom whatsoever. Moreover, quite a lot of people from our country also participated in the cheers, making the arena even more active.

This however resulted in all of the SPP outside the control room to have problems listening to the intercom, which was essential to continue our events and performances. As the translator, I stood with the camera director beside the stage and the speakers. I had already been struggling to hear over the loud noises, but I had to increase the volume of the intercom to the highest level in order to translate the director’s words accurately. The attendance of the cheer squad was indeed meaningful, but at the same time gave hardships to workers like us. There were a couple more incidents related to Team Corea’s games even after the first game. These gave me headaches as a staff. However, looking back at it, they were such unique experiences that no one else could ever have had.

A group photo of the SPP crew. A lot more people than you think were behind the scenes during the Olympics.

18 days of lack of sleep and tension are now finished. Everyone was extremely stressed out and sharp to finish the Olympics successfully, but still had each other to rely on. I was able to meet such passionate, enthusiastic people in their own areas, and am extremely glad such a chance like this came across to me.

On Jung-yun   
Photos by On Jung-yun 
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