Saturday, 11 August 2012

The Olympic Torch Drops By My Seoul Neighborhood!

With all eyes every night glued to the sportscast of the 2012 London Olympic games, I remember four years ago when the Olympic torch relay of the 2008 Beijing Olympics included a stopover in Seoul, and the Olympic torch actually passed through my neighborhood!

 On that cool day in April 2008, when the hype and the excitement of the torch relay were enveloping Seoul, I first headed to the Seoul Plaza to join the Chinese and local fans  at the site where the Olympic torch relay would end. 

The atmosphere at the Seoul Plaza was much like the atmosphere in Beijing itself before the opening ceremonies: people dancing, chanting and celebrating.

But after I had walked around the to savor the excitement around the Plaza, I caught a bus and headed home to Hannam-dong (in Yongsan-gu), where I would be able to actually see the torch relay up close.
And when I got there, voila!  Fans and cheerers had lined up the path where the torch relay would pass! This was the main highway in Hannam-dong which connects the Hannam Bridge, a major bridge in Seoul, to the Namsan Tunnel (which ends up in Myeong-dong).

Alongside the fans, platoons of policemen were also there to secure the path and prevent any crazy person from attempting to put out the Olympic flame. Well, they could have just relaxed. I didn't see anyone carrying a fire extinguisher.

As the fans, the media, the local residents and perhaps, other curious Seoulites from all over the city crowding the sidewalks in Hannam-dong, I found it difficult to squeeze in and find a good spot to take photographs from. So, I headed up to the hilly part just next to the Hannam Bridge.

And a perfect spot I found! I was all alone up there with a bird eye's view of the path right under my nose! Literally! Ha-ha-ha! 

And once I saw the police and Olympic sponsor buses pass by, I knew that the torch was near!  How exciting it was!  Just like a countdown, but without fireworks! Ha-ha-ha!

And there they were. Guarding the Olympic torch bearer were hundreds of guards uniformed in white and yellow, while the torch bearer himself wearing a red and white shirt, making himself stand out from the crowded entourage running at the speed of an Olympic marathon, and not that of the 100-meter dash.

As I stood there watching (and busy taking photographs!) from my perfect spot, I realized the fire that was passing through my neighborhood would be the same flame that would light up the Olympic cauldron at Beijing in about three months' time.
              (The guy in red is the Olympic torch bearer)
(The torch bearer standing at the Hannam-dong flyover after he passed on the flame to the next Olympic torch bearer and waiting for the bus where all torch bearers board after. I don't know his name though.)

Well, I wonder when I'd be able to see up close the Olympic flame again. In Rio 2016, perhaps?  That's still four years away. 

And since we always stay up late at night watching the London Olympic games, the Olympic motto becomes...

Faster, higher, stronger and...sleepier.  Zzzzz.....  

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