What the hell are the Asian Games? I, myself, had no idea the Asiad existed at all until I went to cover the games in Incheon this past month.
The name is self-explanatory. The Asian Games are a set of events held throughout and between Asian countries every four years.
The Asian Games are very much like the Olympics, except on a more regional-based level. There are over 44 events such as soccer, fencing, archery, swimming, decathlon, triathlon, and any other “-athon”.
The 17th Asian Games were held in Incheon, South Korea this year. I was fortunate enough to be part of the Asian Games News Service, and as a reporter for the organization, I had access to all the events.
The games and events were fun to watch, but there were more than just enjoying the games. More than the sporting events themselves, I saw a lot of problems with the entire Asiad and its infrastructures.
There were 36 different sporting events this year, and of course some events might not be popular. I covered basketball and boxing, and both events seem exciting and fun. However, there were barely any spectators for the games. The stadiums were emptier than an abandoned warehouse. Unless the event was in its finals, people didn’t want to pay much money to come watch.
There are a few dedicated fans that come to support their teams, like the Filipinos who cheered on for their basketball team.
I was sorely disappointed at the lack of turnout for the events such as boxing. For a grueling ten days, I watched over 200 individual boxing matches, and each day, the seats throughout the gymnasium sat empty.
If the system can be cheated, it will. I watched basketball, handball, soccer, and boxing games in person. Without fail, the referees or judges would favor the South Korean team or athlete.
The women’s lightweight boxing finals between India’s Sarita Devi and South Korea’s Park Jina stirred up quite the controversy. Anybody who watched that fight would have no doubt that Devi won the fight. The decision to give the victory to Park did not sit well with everyone (especially the Indian nationals) except the Korean spectators. The controversial decision is still under official investigation and the topic is still hot among boxing aficionados and fans around the world. Yet, I saw more unfair rulings on the field in other events like soccer and basketball.
The men’s basketball finals between S. Korea and Iran was truly an exciting game. Never for a minute did either team take a big enough lead to assume they would emerge victorious. With 16 seconds left in the game, Korea was barely leading 76-75. Iran would have no choice but to foul to stop the clock from ticking down, and Korea managed three more points at the free throw line. With eight seconds left, Iran was trailing 77-79. However, in their last drive to score one more basket, they were fouled numerous times by the Korean players, but the referee failed to blow his whistle and simply let the clock expire. I saw similar favoritism on the soccer field as well, but I won’t get into that. I’m sure I painted fairly detailed accounts of favoritism for Korean athletes. It wasn’t simply the game officials that had a hand in creating a substantial Asian Games.
In the first few days of the Asian Games, over 100 Korean interpreters simply left. That accounted for over a third of the interpreters available, and some of them were essential because they could speak Arabic, Russian, Chinese, and a few other languages that would have proven useful on the field. They left because they were told one thing, but found to their dismay that the organizers could not deliver on their promises. The interpreters were promised lucrative pay, decent housing, and good working conditions.
However, when they began their jobs interpreting, they had to work around the clock, being a lackey to the different foreigners that came to speculate and participate. They were told they would be working an eight-hour work schedule, but instead, they had to work more than 12 hours at a time.
Their pay was much lower than what they were told, and at one point, they were served lunch with stale rice, old dainty meat, and foul-smelling vegetables.
Without them, it was hard for reporters who didn’t speak Arabic or Mongolian like me to conduct interviews. I scrambled and fought my way through other reporters to get a quote from an athlete, but my efforts to reach him or her would be useless as the athletes simply stared at me and kept saying, “No English.”
Overall, South Korea did not have the budget to host such a huge international event, which is why many of the volunteers or workers had a hell of a tough time working throughout the Games. However, it wasn’t completely bad because…
Although I mentioned above that not many people come to watch the sporting events, there are foreign medias that come from different parts of Asia to broadcast and write about the Games.
Many of the reporters didn’t speak English, but we all managed to break through this language barrier and communicated effectively.
Reporters from Jordan were especially friendly. They sat next to us during the boxing matches, and they always had a smile on their face. I sat watching many other people from places such as India, the Philippines, and other Asian nations come to watch and support their respective national athletes play. Through the spirit of competition, many other people along with myself, formed new bonds and contacts with people we never thought we would ever meet. I even had the chance to meet and interview the prince of Qatar. That’s a chance I would never have been given had I not been present at the Games.
There were a lot of issues with the 2014 Incheon Asian Games. However, despite all its flaws, it was an opportunity to bring people of many different cultures into one location. There was a Food Festival that showed off the delectable dishes from countries like Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. I had the chance to interview some of the head chefs, and the Kazakhstani chef wanted to prepare horse meat, which is the main source of meat in his homeland.
It was a pity he couldn’t find horse meat in Korea because from the fragrances of smoked lamb in his kitchen made all who smelled it salivate. It wasn’t only the Korean spectators that had the chance to mingle with different cultures. People from China were able to shake hands, take pictures and talk with people from Turkmenistan, and the same held true for most of the other different-cultured people.
As long as people are able to have the opportunity to open new lines of communication with other people, then the problems of the Asian Games may be a price we are willing to pay.
Hey there, I’m an aspiring journalist who is in the prime of his life. I’ve lived in America most of my life, but because I can adapt to anything, I’ve integrated quite well in Korean society. I hope to see the world and write about and share what I see. I like places with large bodies of water (especially the ocean), and one day, I will have a kickass beach house where I’ll spend my time writing and sipping mojitos.
RSS Feed currently unavailable.