Why ‘ The Wang’s’ the place to be

Alpine News - - News - By THE SNOW GAUGE Glenn Cullen has been writ­ing about snow sports for two decades and will at­tend his fifth Win­ter Olympics in Pyeongchang. Sub­scribe to his blog www.thes­now­gauge.net for the lat­est in­dus­try news and opin­ion as well as reg­u­lar give­aways. Y

WHEN you stop to consider the venues at which Aus­tralia has had its great­est Olympic success, you may con­jure up the pool in Mel­bourne, the track in Syd­ney or velo­drome in Athens.

By late Fe­bru­ary next year you could well be adding an­other, more ob­scure one: Bok­wang Phoenix Park, in Pyeongchang South Korea.

It sounds like a mouth­ful now (in fact I’ve al­ready mounted a cam­paign for Aus­tralians to shorten it to ‘The Wang’) but if you love snow sports the odds are you’ll get to know it soon enough.

Host of all freestyle and snow­board­ing events at the 2018 Win­ter Olympics The Wang is set to be a field of glory for Aus­tralian ath­letes at these Games.

It’s hard to find a medal for Aus­tralia out­side of this small, pur­pose-built ski area but that isn’t as bad as it sounds be­cause there prom­ises to be plenty on of­fer in the one spot.

At last count I had a po­ten­tial 13 ath­letes across six freestyle and snow­board dis­ci­plines that could con­tend for medals. When you consider that a quar­ter of a cen­tury ago an Aus­tralian hadn’t even stood on the dais at a Win­ter Olympics it is quite the achieve­ment.

I’ll save the anal­y­sis for a col­umn closer to the Games but I can say hav­ing vis­ited the site dur­ing the test events of Fe­bru­ary this year it prom­ises to be an ex­cel­lent host.

Ini­tially I had my doubts be­fore I went to The Wang be­cause there’s so lit­tle English in­for­ma­tion online about it. Yet a few days there had me and seem­ingly most of the Aus­tralian ath­letes feel­ing it would de­liver.

About two and a half hours from Seoul (soon to be short­ened when the train line most of the way there is com­plete to­wards year’s end), The Wang is far from a clas­sic ski des­ti­na­tion. There are only 14 marked runs, the snow depth com­pares poorly to Ja­pan and like the rest of South Korea you can’t ride off-piste.

But the weather stays largely quite cold (-10 overnight with few thaws dur­ing the day), ho­tels are right on top of the ac­tion, view­ing is su­perb and the likes of ae­rial skier Ly­dia Las­sila and half­pipe cham­pion Scotty James have al­ready given their fa­cil­i­ties the thumbs up.

Cer­tainly there’ll need to be a few tweaks: the roads around the com­plex were still pretty rough, and food op­tions were lim­ited (Korean bar­be­cue or Korean bar­be­cue any­one?). Still, that’s what test events are for and to my eye they ap­pear more ready than the last three Win­ter Olympics hosts at the same time.

The Korean peo­ple are warm, have a good sense of hu­mour and you get the feel­ing they sup­port and want these Games to work. That’s of­ten a big part of the bat­tle.

With a friendly time zone ( just two hours be­hind) these Games will make for great af­ter­noon and evening view­ing for Aussies – or you may want to consider go­ing there your­self (See: www.cosport.com for tick­et­ing and ac­com­mo­da­tion de­tails). His­tory could be await­ing you if you do.

VENUE: Bok­wang Phoenix Park aka ‘ The Wang’.

DE­LI­CIOUS: A Korean ban­quet.

DIN­ING: You can find a good restau­rant if you look.

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