Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea (A Short Story: 8m30 read time)

Soohorang, the white tiger, and Bandabi, the Asiatic black bear: mascots for the 2018 Winter Olympics

With the current Winter Olympics in full swing, I'm reminded of the amazing experience I had attending events in my South Korean "hometown", Gangneung (the first place I lived in Korea). Some vents were held in stadiums there, but mostly occurred in a town closeby with great ski slopes; Pyeongchang.

I even wrote a wee story (in a slight screenplay style), imagining the life of those who were competing and helping to make the full event a reality. Hopefully it'll be a little fun and help boost the excitement for the current games:

Olympics in Pyeongchang

Air view of stadiums and tracks. (Subtitle of commentator name.) Mic on.

COMMENTATOR 1: And it's another lovely, if yet freezing, day at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongyang and we have quite the day in store for you. First-

Mic off. Cut to opening music and player montage.

COMMENTATOR 1: What are you doing? We've got dead air now.

PRODUCER: It's chang! Pyeongchang.

COMMENTATOR 1: Yeah, I know. Oh. I didn't, did I?

Graphics of time and events. (Commentator name change.) Mic on.

COMMENTATOR 2: We apologise for the disruption. First up today is the women's curling, with an exciting match between the local team and their rival: Japan. While curling may not be the most intense of sports, any game between these two has the potential for more drama; seeping into political and media debates. Let's just hope "sweep" isn't interpreted as "into the nation and take over".

Mic off. Stock footage of Korean woman in glasses studying a mid-game stone layout.

PRODUCER: Seriously? Commenting on diplomatic affairs?

COMMENTATOR 2: Come on, it's a play on words.

PRODUCER: Check your twitter.

Transition image: change to heats of women's snowboarding. (Commentator name change.) Mic on.

COMMENTATOR 3: After curling, or rather during, we're taking you out to the slopes for snowboard slalom quarterfinals, which will not make you bored in the slightest.

Mic off. Replay of various finish line crossings from qualifiers. 

COMMENTATOR 3: Now that's word play.

COMMENTATOR 2: Alright, alright.

PRODUCER: He is right, though. All right.

COMMENTATOR 3: I like what you did there.

COMMENTATOR 2: Whatever.

COMMENTATOR 3: See, I'd ‘ave said-

PRODUCER: Dead air!

Transition to a spin and jump which focuses in on skater's face, scrunched up in concentration. Mic on.

COMMENTATOR 3: It's sparkle and glamour then, with the next round of figure skating. And if you think you can handle a little more spark, we'll whisk you back out for the blades slicing down the luge track.

Mic off. Athlete lying on back atop a sled, whizzing up the side of the wall. 

COMMENTATOR 3: This has got to be the worst luge track I've ever seen.

Athlete slips down, then too far to the opposite side, scraping shoulder roughly along edge. Mic on.

COMMENTATOR 3: See what I mean? Lose track, not luge. Lose your skin from the instability. These designers outta be fired.

Mic off. Dissolve to schedule graphics, side by side curling set up. 

COMMENTATOR 3: And there they are, the neighbouring ladies- The mic light's off.

PRODUCER: It wasn't when you said lose track.

COMMENTATOR 3: I'll see myself out.

Zoom into white tiger mascot waving and posing for photo with group of teenage girls, posing with fingers in peace signs. (Commentator name change.) Mic on.

COMMENTATOR 4: There's Soohorang, entertaining the crowd again. It's been heard more than a few times around the park that he and his bear friend for the Paralympics are the most popular mascots of recent games, perhaps of all. If the merchandise we've seen around is anything to go by, it seems that people are certainly snapping these little fellas up.

Out of the television commentary, we move into the Olympic Park experience. A family with two elementary aged children walk up to the large, white, cartoon styled costume, held up inside by a Korean male in early twenties, wishing he'd signed up for early military duty instead of Olympic service.

SOOHORANG: Another day, another thousand pictures.

(Soohorang actor’s tongue stuck out, up and right, eyes opposite angle, lips outstretched.) Click. Family walk away, waving almost as intently as the mascot seems to be.

SOOHORANG: They can't see my real face, so sometimes I like to mix it up by sticking out my tongue or just pulling the ugliest face I can possibly muster. I ran out of new angles to twist my tongue into by day two, but I've been impressed with the vast number of hideous twitches I can muster. Pity there isn't an actual record of any of them.

Family with hesitant toddler walk up. (All Soohorang actor’s facial features pulled as open as they can get.) Click. Toddler grabs fuzzy leg of costume. The tiger holds hands out to parents who stand and laugh.

SOOHORANG: Parents have no sense when it comes to their kids. The teams are arriving on the curling sheets; they'll be wanting me out of here already. If only this family could be bothered to pull their son off of me. My only job is to distract and entertain between events. Can’t upset the paying spectators! But that doesn’t matter to the determined faces polishing off their stones in preparation for domination. And they’re already glancing my way.

Toddler finally loses grip through tantrum tears. Family whisk the toddler away. Curling competitor rolls her eyes at the scene.

SOOHORANG: Oh, wow. I didn't know her team was playing today. Better get out quick, before she sees me. Uh oh, her team is facing this exit. Her eyes are pinpointed straight at me! Oh, but she's nodding and pointing at her teammate's stick, like nothing's happened. Ah, that's right, no-one can see past my fearsomely adorable, fuzzy, cream cheeks. I'm Soohorang, safely escaping the arena with my prancing step. Competitors none the wiser that I am the same staff member who steals their bananas at breakfast service. Hmm, Bandabi isn't at our photo zone, yet. He normally makes an appearance around now. People love it when we're together, but I love it even more because he's my distraction to slip into the athlete's cafeteria to try to grab a sneaky plate of, well mostly cheese at this time of the day. There he is! Excellent. A few shots together...

(Tongue curled, nose flared.) Click.
(Cheeks puffed out, eyes at angles.) Click.
(Whole face pulled in as tight as it can get.) Click.

SOOHORANG: And yes, thank you, wave away and do your playful skit with the little ones, silly bear. Parents are always preoccupied with getting enough clicks that they don't realise I've made it to the six cheese buffet in the players' restaurant. How much cheese is too much in a week? Probably half of what I mentally consumed yesterday. I'll never get to find out the actual answer, though, because the adults in here are just as bad as the kids out there and when they're not dashing about, angling for the perfect selfie,

(Checking out athlete in distance.) Click.
(Checking out athlete behind.) Click.
(Checking out athlete taking picture.) Click.

SOOHORANG: I can only just get my helmet and massive paw glove off, still nowhere near the cheeses, and a guard comes up to me: yep there he is, right on time to usher me out. I was close this time. Maybe tomorrow I can get something into the baggie stuffed up my glove. It just takes so long to get the glove off in time to swipe anything. I will get a sly slice one of these days. Oh, she's cute. What country is that flag from? Careful, they can see your face now: handsome, not crinkled features! She's not a curler, is she? Wow, she's fairly filling that plate up with the top notch nosh.

FEMALE ATHLETE FILLING PLATE: There's just too many choices. If I didn't have to wait for the fresh carvings, I'd join that queue, but I've got that press conference soon. Too soon it seems; yep that's my coach waving frantically at me. No time to pop anything in my mouth. Not even one Korean rice cake smothered in that bright red sauce. I've been curious about that since before I got here.

Dash to conference table and photography flashes. Reporters' hands in air. Question after question.

FEMALE ATHLETE: Yes, it was tremendously disappointing, but that's the nature of these games; you never know what is going to happen in the actual competition. Especially not falling flat on your face.

Reporters' hands in air. Question.

FEMALE ATHLETE: Thanks, I can just about smell again. No, I think I did train enough, it's not always about what's happened leading up to the event, but those moments when another competitor taps your arm and sends you flying off the track.

Reporters' hands in air. Question.

FEMALE ATHLETE: Obviously, no penalty was given, so no blame was assigned. It certainly wasn't my fault. I just have to accept and move on.

Reporters' hands in air. Question.

FEMALE ATHLETE: Yes, well it's sweet of my supporters to be so upset for me, but some comments online have gone a little too far. I do not condone any threats or acts of aggression. Enough pain and blood has been shed by my nose alone.

Reporters' hands in air. Question.

FEMALE ATHLETE: I plan to enjoy my time here in South Korea, and especially at the Olympic venues. You know there's a whole range of delicious dishes I have stared at, but been unable to taste because of my meal plan. I can risk a few extra pounds and an upset stomach now. Besides, there are plenty of events left where I can cheer for my friends.

Reporters' hands in air. Question.

FEMALE ATHLETE: I wouldn't know about any rumours, but yes, I plan on keeping up with the rest of the heats, including his. He is my country mate, after all. I also hope to attend a few other events.

Reporters' hands in air. Question.

FEMALE ATHLETE: I've been pretty focused on my performance for my sport, I wouldn't know of anything going on in the dormitories except sleep. Thank you everyone; if you don't mind, that plate of Korean rice cake is calling my name.

The hubbub of the games and spectators continues for days, dwindling to the final spectacle of the closing ceremony and the handover to the next host country.