Sunday, 10 July 2011

Pyongchang Olympics Predictions and Perspective in Question and Answer Format

Well, it's very convenient that Pyongchang was awarded the 2018 Olympics just now, as I just finished reading over 600 pages worth of books and articles on the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup, so I have lots to say...

In Question and Answer Format, then:

1. People in Korea are, like, REALLY excited about this. Why?

Almost every Korean you talk to wants Korea to be recognized as a world-class nation. Whatever that means*. Every Korean you ever meet wants foreigners to think well of Korea, and in order for MORE foreigners to think well of Korea, Korea needs to attract their attention. Big events like the Olympics are a great opportunity to do this. Koreans like to see Korean-related things high on lists comparing  countries, and get distressed when Korea's position on such comparative lists are low. Here's a list Korea now belongs to:

Countries that will (by 2018) have hosted a Summer Olympics, a Winter Olympics, and a FIFA World Cup:
France, Germany, Italy, USA, Russia, Japan... and South Korea. That's more exclusive than the G20!

Not only is Korea now on a very very exclusive list (absent: famously "highly advanced" nations like Sweden, Canada, Australia, Netherlands, and even the United friggin' Kingdom!), but Korea gets to show that anything Japan can do, they can do, too. Which is important to some people here.

*Usually, what "world-class nation" means is a nation that resembles nations universally recognized as "highly advanced" - usually in terms of technology, economic and military power, and cultural influence. These nations tend to be "Western" nations like the USA and European nations. And Japan.

2. That's a lot of talk about prestige and status, Roboseyo. But The Olympics are about peace and harmony through sport, aren't they?

Actually... whether the Olympics are successful at bringing peace and harmony and cultural understanding to the world is debatable -- during the 60s and 70s, the Olympics were extremely politicized, with major boycotts to the 1976, 1980 and 1984 games, a political hostage situation at the 1972 games (Munich), and a massacre of protestors just days before the opening of the 1968 games (Mexico City). There are also constant rumors of corruption in the International Olympic Committee, and the IOC is known for turning a blind eye on some horrific stuff: the Seoul Games were awarded to Korea only a year after the horrific Gwangju Massacres in 1980, and the IOC very nearly gave the 2000 Summer Games to Beijing, only four years after the Tiananmen Square massacre: a bid which China submitted after being actively encouraged to bid by IOC leaders.

Meanwhile, though Olympics bring lots of nations together, it's debatable whether one sees an increase in international understanding during the Olympics, or whether one simply sees nations gathering to root for their own tribe. Pride gets involved. Winning at all costs becomes more important than fair play and excellence.* The Olympics and similar events warm over old national rivalries, and when things don't go the way one or another nation wants, especially when one of those old rivalries is in play, it can lead to an international incident (see also: Ohno, Apolo).

(For the record, FIFA has generally, but not always, been less political, but especially recently, even more corrupt and unaccountable.)

The one thing the Olympics are SURE to bring is not peace and harmony, but a jump in international visibility, which acts as a blank canvas on which the host (and anyone else with some media savvy) can paint their messages. Beijing 2008 used the Olympics to make some bold declarations about China's rise. The 1988 Seoul Games, the 1968 Mexico City games, and the 1964 Tokyo games did likewise. After World War II, the Olympics were held in a series of former Axis nations, to show their return to normalized relations with the world (Rome 1960, Tokyo 1964, Munich 1972). The Olympics are also a great opportunity to do a little national swaggering, as in the 1936 Berlin "Nazi" Olympics, the cold war Olympics (Moscow 1980 and LA 1984 - which featured Sam the Eagle, the most nationalist mascot ever), and some might argue, the 1948 "Who just won a world war?" London Olympics.

(Sam the eagle: 1984 LA's mascot. A bit flag-wavey, no?)

*Lest I be accused of finger pointing, Canada is also guilty of focusing on winning. Canada's "Own the podium" project missed the point of the Olympics, if it really IS about understanding, harmony, excellence and fair play.

3. But fair play and excellence comes into it, right?

Somewhere in there... but with few exceptions, the medal counts have become more a reflection of who puts money into their Olympic program than anything else. And why do governments and corporations think it's worth it to support Olympic programs? Swagger, not sport. Look at the change in China's medal counts that have happened since the 1980s, leading up to China's 2008 gold frenzy - directly connected to national "glory" and prestige. If medals weren't a way of building national prestige, why would countries strategically focus funding on less popular, high medal-count events (swimming, diving, rowing, and skating events) in order to pad their totals?

4. But the 1988 Olympics were really good for Seoul, and Korea in general. Why wouldn't these Olympics be equally good for Korea?

A few reasons.

First, in 1981, all anybody knew about Korea was the War, and MASH, and Western news coverage on Korea at that time focused on North Korea, civil unrest in South Korea, and visits to Korea by heads of state. That's about it. There was nowhere for Korea's national image to go but up, and by putting on a helluva good show, Korea's national image DID go up.

Were the Seoul Games the "foundation for an Advanced Nation" advertised in the 1988 Olympic Museum (Olympic Park)?

place of prosperity - final conclusion

Hard to say. A lot of other things were going on at the time. The games were a convergence point for forces that had been gathering speed in Korea for a long time, towards democratization and internationalization and a new stage of economic development, but those forces existed before the Olympics, and would have had their effect on the national trajectory without them, though in different ways and with different timing. The Olympics definitely gave Koreans a better story to tell themselves about Korea's rise in status, acting as a tidy turning point in the national narrative being constructed.

The 2002 World Cup also provided a nice turning point in the narrative of Korea's recovery from the 1997 financial crisis... but that was a constructed narrative, too. Not necessarily an objective truth. Often, that's what big sports events are best for - national storytelling.

5. So why wouldn't the same happen to Korea this time?


Now, Korea already is a prominent nation. You don't see Mongolian TV dramas sweeping their time-slots in Taiwan, you don't see Laotian pop bands hitting top ten charts all across Asia, and you don't see Burkina-Faso's top popstars getting headlining roles in crappy Hollywood movies, do you? Park Jisung even has his own chant from Manchester United fans, which, while as crass as any other soccer chant, is at least aware enough of Korean culture to choose the correct ugly stereotype.

Korea has much less to gain this time, and much more to lose if the games go poorly, or if something embarrassing happens, like the 2008 Beijing Torch Relay fustercluck, or closer to home, the Byun Jong il boxing brouhaha, during which a Korean security guard hit a boxing official. (More on that) ... do you know how close they came to canceling the rest of the Olympic boxing tournament in 1988?

6. So what do you think is going to happen during the 2018 Pyeongchang games?

I think they will be a successful games, but not enough to be considered among the best ever.

Predictions will wildly overestimate the number of tourists and dollars the Olympics will attract. But that's true of literally EVERY Olympics.

I think Koreans have overestimated the Winter Olympics - they're nowhere near the importance, length or scale of the Summer Games. They have much fewer events, and they only appeal to nations with winter sports.

It will raise Korea's profile, but not as much as expected, and not only in the ways hoped for: that visibility gives EVERYBODY a platform, not just the official party line, and protesters and dissenting voices WILL be a part of these Olympics.

If this article is on base, the region has its work cut out for it, to develop a venue area that will impress people from winter sport regions, rather than just Koreans who can't afford to travel to Whistler.

I think there will be a lot of talk, but the Olympics will not help improve North/South Korea relations. Nobody will win the Nobel Peace Prize because of these games.

I think North Korea will do some big stunt a few months before the games, to get attention and try to piss on the Olympic party, but be relatively quiet during the games. I don't know whether they'll send a team (they didn't in '88)... too many variables in play, particularly in terms of succession.

I think negotiations to send a unified Korean team to the Olympics won't work out, and both sides will blame the other. As usual. This one might hinge on whether the president at the time is lefty or righty (politically).

I think the facilities will be completed ahead of time, but over budget. Either that, or early and under budget, with problems in workmanship cropping up close to the opening day. This would be very embarrassing to the nation, especially if it was discovered that construction funds were funneled elsewhere. However, due to TV revenues, etc.,  the games will pretty much break even.

Then, I think Pyeongchang will not know what to do with the extra facilities, and mad surplus of hotel accommodations no longer needed after the games, and maybe tear down things like the bobsled track, once all the Olympic jobs evaporate and public funds have to go into maintaining mostly unused facilities. Best case scenario? Pyeongchang becomes an Olympic training complex for future Olympians.  Pyeongchang's nearby ski resorts will become WAY overpriced and overcrowded.

I think it will be run better than that F1 Racing event (racing events remain a mess), because the President will see to it that extremely capable people will be involved in the olympic project.

7. What are some pitfalls that you think should get some media play during games preparations, so that Korea doesn't end up in a media standoff like they did with NBC during the 1988 Olympics?

Here's the thing:
I'm sure the planning and execution of the games will go well. And I'm sure the "official version" of Korean culture will be well represented during the opening ceremonies and such.


There will be some bad calls during the games. Some of those bad calls will go against Korean athletes.

Some journalist will do a piece on the nearest dog meat market to Pyeongchang.

Another will report on the gender empowerment gap, and the prostitution industry here. And maybe even the intellectual crime (pirated DVDs and such) or the continuing corruption of the high-and-mighty elites. Or the mistreatment of migrant workers. If people try to suppress these stories, there will be instead a series of stories about how Korea is not ready to take criticism the way a truly developed nation should (as happened to China when they lashed out at BBC). Western media likes to position non-western nations as "Other" and somewhat "inferior."

People will talk about North Korea more than South Koreans would like.

A few Koreans will act like hypernationalist asses, and it will get a little play in the international news, like the "USA" chanters at the Atlanta summer games.

If North Korea sends a team, they'll send a squad of beautiful cheerleaders who attract a lot of media attention.

Some athletes or guests will act like asses, and get into some kind of scuffle with locals or local police.

Some protestors will jump in front of cameras and talk about the Korean issue of the day: the 2018 equivalent of the 4 rivers project, or the US Agent Orange dumping.

Some Koreans will dislike the style of foreign nations' reporting on Korea, and try to stir up a nationalist outrage like the one that led NBC to advise its reporters to hide the peacock logo during the 1988 games.

Somebody's going to write a cheeky article about Korean culture that seems mocking to a reader without enough English skill to pick out nuances of tone, or write some stuff that's overwhelmingly positive, but has a few critical lines in it. (see also: Hohleiter, Vera)

How the Korean internet, and media, respond to these things, will demonstrate Korea's true level of advancement as a nation either confident in its status as a major player, or still insecure about whether EVERY person likes EVERYTHING about Korea - an impossible goal for a high profile country. Will the media and public response be different than it was in 1988 (exactly 30 years earlier)? That'll be a test of whether Korea's truly comfortable in its own skin as a player on the world stage.

8. So how can Korea prepare for those kinds of unexpected things?

With a preemptive series of media discussions about why it's unsporting, and makes Korea look bad, to crash the websites of countries, athletes, or sport governing bodies, that are party to decisions that go against Korean athletes or say bad things about Korea, or to threaten the lives of, well, anyone, over something as inconsequential as sports, and a series of media discussions about the fact people coming to Korea will be behaving by different norms than Koreans behave, which doesn't mean they're bad, inferior, immoral, or trying to insult their hosts: it just means they're not from around here.

9. Do you think that'll happen?

I don't know. But it'd be refreshing if it did.  We saw during the 2008 Beijing Games, as well as the 1988 Seoul Games, that host nations do not have complete control over the messages conveyed about their countries during such global events. Responding by taking it on the chin, with a "Yeah, maybe that's true. Everybody hosting the Olympics this year raise your hands!" instead of with prickly defensiveness, would demonstrate a kind of confidence Korea hasn't always demnostrated, and didn't in 1988. The point of big event hosting is swagger... so swagger! Korea would do well to bear this in mind while preparing for the games, and to aim for a populace ready for this inevitability, come games time.


조안나 said...

I'm not sure what you mean by "Pyongchang ski resort" (doesn't exist) but assuming you mean Yongpyeong and Alpensia ski resorts, they already have a huge amount of condos and things around Yongpyong, which are already overpriced and mostly go to timeshare holders or condo owners who I'm guessing when the Olympics come, they will rent the condos out for 10 times the normal price and make a year's living in the two week duration of the Olympics. I'm not sure what will happen to Alpensia resort as it is already having a hard time competing with Yongpyeong and was only built to hold the Olympics. They have built lots of accommodations around it; Intercontinental, Holiday Inn...etc etc, probably will build more in the town of Hoengye in the years to come as well. As the Alpensia hotels stand now, they're virtually empty in the middle of winter now and after the Olympics, maybe buisness will improve for a year or two after the Olympics but after that, who knows... Alpensia does seem like a nice resort, but it's hard to compete with huge Yongpyeong around the corner 5 minutes away.

You could look at Nagano as an example of what could happen. From what I hear from Korean skiers I know, it is quite reasonably priced to get a package ski tour there because there were so many hotels built for the Olympics and are now in desperate need of buisness. Koreans could set up ski packages for Japanese or Chinese visitors for cheaper prices in order to get people to fill their hotels.

I have no idea what would happen to all the other facilities like bobsled tracks that they'd build, but like you say, I'd hope they could be turned into training centers.

I wrote up a small piece on the Olympics on my blog too since I've skied the runs that the Olympians will be doing in a few short years. Yongpyeong ski resort is my home away from home in Korea!

Oh, and one problem i've heard that they have and I'm curious as to how they will solve it, they supposedly do not have a proper downhill ski course. I'm no expert, but my serious ski friends tell me that for the downhill race you need a certain difference in elevation from top to bottom... something that they don't have. I'll be curious how they solve this problem (and hope that means a new slope opening at Yongpyong for me to ski on!)

Nomadic Samuel said...

You've brought up a lot interesting/valid points in this article. One thing that I've really noticed having lived in Korea for 3 years is that - as you mentioned - Koreans are very concerned about their imagine abroad. I've found that if I've tried to sneak in a few negative comments in between the mostly positive ones I have to say about Korea things can get sensitive. I think that Korea will do an excellent job hosting the games - as they did during the World Cup of Soccer; however, I think the grandiose ideas of other nations suddenly worshiping the temple of the Hermit Kingdom is largely exaggerated & unrealistic.

noe said...

I've never enjoyed watching the olympics, in fact I hated that they took up every channel on Tv. But the fact that Korea is hosting the 2018, makes me want to watch just to see what will happen.

Elle said...

I've been following your blog from time to time. I think it's interesting. I Just want to let you know that I put in blogroll.. (I hope it's ok)...

Anonymous said...

"Another will report on the gender empowerment gap...,"

It's not the GEP,
It's the "Gender Empowerment Measure(GEM)", but it's not even that anymore. It's now the "Gender Inequality Index(GII)"

Erik said...

Be careful, Rob. You might just get yourself hired by the Korean government as an Olympic advisor if you keep on writing stuff like this.

This Is Me Posting said...

Excellent post. You're the only Korean blogger I read anymore and it's because of posts like this one (I so do miss BiJN, though).

I'm sure it'll come as no surprise that I'm not at all happy about Korea winning their bid, particularly after the behaviour of the athletes, fans and "netizens" during 2010. Not to mention cheating. I notice you pointed out the Byun Jong il incident, but didn't mention anything about Roy Jones Jr. vs. Park Si-Hun in 1988 or about Korea cheating it's way through the 2002 World Cup.

I remain pessimistic but I'll hope optimistically that Korea will surprise me this time around.

wetcasements said...

"Korea has much less to gain this time, and much more to lose if the games go poorly"

This. And anecdotally, when Pyongchang got the nod, I expected my Korean friends and adult students to be chuffed about it. To my surprise most of them were pretty down on it, saying things like "It's good for Pyongchang but it's so far away I'll never go there."

"Korea cheating it's way through the 2002 World Cup."

Oh gawd, please stop repeating this stupidity. Korea got some homer calls as do all host nations in the WC. I'd bet money that Brazil wins the whole thing in 2014 due to some local "support" from the refs.

Or at least just admit you're a Spain fan.

This Is Me Posting said...

@wetcasements - I'll stop repeating it when it stops being true.

Oops. Korean officials bribing refs? Korea's never done that before.


wetcasements said...

First link? Nuthin.

Second link? Totally different sport and event.

Spain is awesome. And the Devils were the better team in 2002.

They happen to be the best squad in the world right now. And they totally screwed up against SK two world cups ago.

Chris in South Korea said...

If anyone remembers the debacle of Jeollanam-do's first F-1 race last year, just take that and multiply it by 10. The thing is that here, they don't get another chance like the annual F-1 race will.

I'd love to see Korea look at this as an opportunity to be more confident and not in complete control over the message. It's becoming increasingly awkward to sound like you're in control over that - and the harder you squeeze the more that seems to leak out.

Rob-o-SE-yo said...

@TIMP and @WetCasements

please carry on... just keep it civil.

all I'll say is that the way discussions about Korea/Spain 2002 or Roy Jones Jr. persist to this day is a great example of how sports nationalism poisons these international events, and prevents them from being TRUE celebrations of sporting excellence, fair play, etc..

I don't think you give Korea enough credit. I really don't. The problem with the F1 thing is that it was left to a few individuals and a local government that wanted some attention, but didn't really care about the event, other than the attention they could gain from it. Do you really think the Pyongchang local government is going to be left in charge of the olympics project? No f'ing way. This one will go straight to the top, and LMB himself will probably hand-pick some of the sharpest people he knows to helm the olympics project. It's going to be a well-run machine, as 88 was, on the tech/infrastructure/administration side. How the sports nationalists and flag-wavers respond is anybody's guess, (things got a bit squirrely in '88) but Korea knows how to put on a spectacular show when they're given a big enough stage, and the chance to shine is on the line.

shotgunkorea said...

I agree with you wholeheartedly about "unsporting" behavior, I wonder what will happen if Apolo Ohno is still competing in 2018? I shudder to think.

J. Goard said...

Excellent post, Rob. But there's one very important contingency that you didn't mention.

Six and a half years is a long time for North Korean collapse or for alliances to shift and an incident that provokes war. At least a good-sized minority of experts think that Korean reunification before then is more likely than not.

And that would likely mean: (1) a weakly developed welfare system overloaded with a virulently racist underclass; (2) potential terrorist elements loyal to the failed system; (3) even more and cheaper prostitution; and (4) just a far worse international image to the extent that cameras are directed at people stunted by severe malnourishment, which authorities would surely botch any attempt to cover up. It might, in other words, end up being the polar opposite of the '88 games for a Korea coming down from the jubilation of reunification to face reality.

The worst thing of all, though, is if the games were to become an effective factor against a possible reunification/liberation of the north.

Rob-o-SE-yo said...

Frankly, J. G., you're totally right.. given how little we know about NK in general, and how we know EVEN LESS about the guy marked to be next, and when that transfer will happen, and how long KJI will live after the transfer, and what the military leaders, and China, will think of senior and junior, and how they manage the transfer, and who becomes SK and USA's next president, and what his/her approach is to North Korea, basically, literally anything could happen, from a civil war to a revolt to a Chinese power-grab to a complete collapse to a perestroika to an opening to a smooth shift into a new incarnation of insular madness, and I wouldn't be surprised.

That's WHY I left it out - those different scenarios are the ultimate wildcard, and will take over any piece written about the pyeongchang games.

Curry Rice said...

As a Korean professional working in Seoul, I can tell you that most of my friends and acquitances (i.e., who are either bankers, lawyers, chaebol employees and living in gangnam) are pretty indifferent to the winter olympics. I think it may be the media overemphasizing the significance of hosting the olympics and trying to make perception a reality. I've seen a general change in attitude from collectivism to individualism -> most care more about their 50 pyong apt and beemers than dokdo, Korea image abroad etc. Perhaps an indication of growing wealth?

Rob-o-SE-yo said...

I'm intrigued by the amount of "meh" I've been getting, too.

In 1981-7 Korea ran a TON of "get excited about the olympics" initiatives and campaigns to get people on board and excited about the coming games. Maybe the same will have to be done this time.

A good first step would be establishing a good enough mainline transportation system that can get people from Seoul out to Pyeongchang really quickly and easily, so Seoulites can start getting excited about it being logistically feasible to enjoy some olympic events.

This Is Me Posting said...

@Rob - Will do.

@wetcasements - Unfortunately for you, that's not how debating works. I supplied something called evidence in the first link and precedence in the second. My case is a lot stronger than yours. Sorry, kid.

You seem to be focusing on the Spain game (and completely disregarding the Italy vs. Korea fiasco) so lets focus on the Spain game. Replays show BOTH goals were legit for Spain. Replays also show Lee Woon Jae clearly coming off his line on Joaquin's penalty kick (others as well, but that's beside the point).

I'd be very curious to know how Spain "totally screwed up" against South Korea. Do you think they should have paid the refs more than SK did? Maybe get him two cars instead of one? They got two goals to Korea's zero. In a game that's often decided on a 1 goal differential, doesn't it say something about the "awesome 2002 Devils" that they couldn't find the back of the net even once, while Spain did not once, but twice? Oops.

In 2002, Korea gets to the semis. In every other World Cup before or since, they couldn't even get out of the group stages because the tournament wasn't hosted in Korea. In 2006, Italy wins. In 2010, Spain. We're talking about two countries that were giants in football losing to Korea in completely bought matches.

Tell you what: you're focusing on the Spain game, let's go with just that one. You prove to me that those calls weren't wrong calls, that they somehow favoured Spain and not Korea and maybe I'll start to consider anything you have to say.

Lastly, if you can prove to me that Gamal Al-Ghandour didn't "end his career under a cloud of suspicion" shortly after the 2002 World Cup, then maybe I'll listen to what you have to say.

wetcasements said...

I did a unit with my adult students about the differences between Korea getting the Olympics today and what it meant in 1988.

I was intrigued to hear from a student who was 12 that watching the South Korean athletes compete was mandatory for public school students, or at least in her school.

She remembers having fun though as well.

wetcasements said...

"I supplied something called evidence"

You literally did not, sparky.

"In 2002, Korea gets to the semis. In every other World Cup before or since, they couldn't even get out of the group stages because the tournament wasn't hosted in Korea."

Um, they just did last summer:

Anonymous said...

Not only is Korea now on a very very exclusive list (absent: famously "highly advanced" nations like Sweden, Canada, Australia, Netherlands, and even the United friggin' Kingdom!),

May i suggest the reason the United friggin Kingdom' has never held the Winter Olympics is that it has no snow nor to my knowledge has ever applied

J. Goard said...

Your response is understandable -- surely it would be ridiculous to consider a world war in terms of whether it might put a damper on a sporting event -- but that's exactly why I was talking about the best-case scenario. Not ongoing war or Chinese takeover -- just having the prospect of having North Koreans around. Even an ideal, relatively bloodless reunification, of the sort that all the schoolkids make beautiful posters about, will result in a huge underclass, many of whom (especially young males) will surely be bitter, inclined toward a life of crime, and very, very racist. Not the ideal situation for tourists.

3gyupsal said...

Koreans are big boys and girls. It will either go well or it won't, and a week afterwards people won't really care. It's the Winter Olympics after all. Every four years the world gets a chance to pretend like it cares about figure skating.

Instead of worrying about what might happen, I think that we should all just be thankful that the winter olympics aren't being held in the U.S., Canada, or somewhere in Europe. It would be really nice if some year they would have it in the southern hemisphere, but they might have to have it in our summer or their winter. It would be really cool (Pun not originally intended, but now that I noticed it it is way intended) if they would just have it at the South Pole. No political B.S., and there would be an element of danger. Also it would be really expensive.

B.T.W. the modern Olympics started somewhat as an outcrop of the nationalism that was sweeping Europe in the late 1800's, soon after world war one started. It has always been about nationalism, and not about peace.

3gyupsal said...

This is an interesting article from 1988 about the whole boxing thing. It features a Korean boxing coach, acting kind of like Korean speed skating coaches. It wasn't just Roy Jones who got the shaft.

Rob-o-SE-yo said...


those facts are all true.

excuses don't change the fact South Korea belongs to a list that the UK doesn't.

don't get too down: my country, Canada, isn't either. But if I think about Wayne Gretzky for a while, I feel better. Maybe if you put on a Beatles' album...

This Is Me Posting said...

@wetcasements - I don't think the word "literally" means what you think it means.

Ghandour is accused of accepting a car as a gift. Ghandour threatens to sue, instead does nothing and retires completely from the sport. What have you got to support your theory? Hey, what about the ref of the Italy vs. SK game? From ESPN's website:

"[ITA vs. KOR referee] Moreno returned to a hero's welcome in Ecuador but was out of the game within a year after receiving two domestic bans for crooked refereeing. Ghandour retired shortly after Spanish newspapers accused him of accepting a Hyundai car as a "gift" on behalf of the Korean Football Association."

Hmm, interesting.


As for the "not out of group stages;" you're absolutely right. I forgot about their defeat to Uruguay in the Round of 16 in 2010. I apologize for the error. Korea has gotten out of the group stages when not on their own soil. I'm just so used to their Round One finishes in 1990, '94, '98 and 2006 (also '54 and '86) that I forgot they made it out this past year. They at least earned one Round of 16 legitimately, let's see if they can do it again in Brazil.

Chris in South Korea said...

"The problem with the F1 thing is that it was left to a few individuals and a local government that wanted some attention..."

True - I'd like to assume that the nation would post its best and brightest in an event that would be viewed and competed in by the world over. That LMB is in power now doesn't mean the next president will install LMB's people - even if they are the best and brightest.

As for the transportation issue, I have high hopes that the train project recently announced ( will both raise the economy and provide an easy link. That'll be an excellent legacy of the Olypmics - cutting what's currently a 5-6 hour train trip into a fraction of that.