Why ‘ The Wang’s’ the place to be
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.