Three weeks ago, I asked a Korean friend whether he was going to the Asian Games (AG). He asked me back, "What Asian Games?"
His response made me think that, if the locals have no idea about the 2014 Asian Games that are going to be held in Incheon starting Friday, September 19, the organizing committee's efforts to publicize the Games might not have been enough.
On the first week of August, I called up the AG trunk line to inquire about the tickets and was able to talk to an English-speaking staff. Funny thing was, she gave me a website not at all linked to the AG official website for the tickets. She said, for foreigners in Korea, we must get our tickets from this website, and for Koreans, there would be another website.
But the funniest thing was, in the AG official website, it says that for foreigners outside Korea, you must get your tickets through your respective national olympic committees. Hmm.
Right there, I already smelled chaos.
The official website http://www.incheon2014ag.org/index is written only in Korean and English. I surfed the English pages last week and discovered links not working, messy lay-outs, and the English and quality of writing badly need improvement. If only the organizers hired professionals or perhaps, outsourced this to a competent advertising company, I would have understood most of what I was reading.
Most important for me was the venue location because if I were to actually watch the games, I should know where I was going. Last week, I looked for the 'Facilities' of the basketball matches. It indicated 'Samsan World Gymnasium'. So, I told my Filipino friends, who were looking forward to watching the Smart Gilas Basketball team of the Philippines play, that Samsan would be the venue. But suddenly, last night, another venue was added: Hwaseong Sports Complex Gymnasium. I wondered if the organizers only decided today that another venue would be used for the basketball matches.
I just hope that the official website now indicates the correct venues for each sport. I hope.
No information hotline
Although the Asian Games brochure I got from the headquarters of the Korea Tourism Organization indicates a telephone number under 'Information', it's actually just a trunk line operated by a girl who claims to speak English, but didn't actually understood what I was saying.
Today, I called again the 'trunk-line' so ask whether there was any 'face-painting' event around the sports site. Usually, during Korean festivals, there would be a 'face-painting' booth where everyone could have their face painted with different colors and design related to the event. I thought that it could actually be a good idea if there was one at the Asian Games, so that participants from Asian countries could have their flags or national colors painted on their faces.
A Filipino friend, who's planning to watch the games, asked me today whether there would be any 'face-painting' at the site. So, I called the trunk-line again and my call was transferred to an English-speaking staff who bluntly told me she didn't know anything. At all. Geez.
I am wondering if the organizers just hired volunteers or have not briefed them where to source the information about what's actually happening at the Asian Games.
I guess if I want to know something about the Asian Games, I should refrain calling the useless 'information' telephone number, and just have to check the official website and cross my fingers that what I read there is actually the correct information.
I found a write-up on the sports controversies on this Wikipedia page about the 2014 Asian Games. It involves cycling and basketball. I don't have all the facts about it but I wonder if the allegations have some semblance of truth to it. Hmm. Intriguing, actually.
But the most glaring controversy doesn't involve sports. It involves, what else, K-pop! Even in the Asian Games, K-pop lords over! Ha-ha-ha! It's about the trio JYJ, who used to be members of the K-pop boy band,TVXQ. Early on, the Asian Games organizers appointed JYJ to be the Games' ambassadors, even singing its theme song.
According to this petition, JYJ was "unilaterally dropped from the opening and closing ceremonies" when their former agency came into the picture. This enraged their fans everywhere. Hell hath no fury like a K-pop fan scorned, indeed.
By the way, the recorded music when you call the Asian Games phone number is the AG song sung by JYJ.
Where's the Asian Games app?
Yes. I was expecting an Asian Games app! This is South Korea, where the tourist information, bus stops, subway system and even my Starbucks have an app! And in a country where you can shop for your groceries at the subway station platform by just using an app!
I am a tennis fan and I always download my apps for the Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and just this month, the US Open! And having these apps always keep me informed and updated with scores and the schedule. I even downloaded the Sochi Olympic Games app last February!
But those Grand Slams are just one sport, while the Asian Games are 36 sports! So, where in the kimchi world is the Asian Games app? They have none! How primitive! I'm still shaking my head in disbelief!
(The only poster of the Asian Games I saw in Seoul
was at the Korea Tourism Organization headquarters)
Oh, well. While I have a feeling there would still be glitches and controversies in the next two weeks, I just hope they won't be as bad as they already are.
So, I am crossing my fingers, legs and eyes, and hoping that, aside from those 'Needs Improvement' aspects of the 2014 Asian Games, this would be a successful gathering of Asian countries in the name of sports.
I hope! Really.