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'The opening ceremony for the 2018 Games has already started'

Feb 09,2017
Song Seung-hwan, head producer for Opening and Closing ceremonies
The Olympics starts and ends with ceremonies during which the central theme is presented with the entire world watching. This means the success of the ceremonies is weighted heavily in deciding the success of the entire Games.

Such gravity of responsibility puts pressure on the directors who oversee the production and presentation of the ceremonies. But according to Song Seung-hwan, a film producer and the head producer of the ceremonies whom the JoongAng Ilbo sat down with recently, the agenda for the ceremonies during the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics has been set, including the central concept of the ceremonies which will present the amalgamation of Korean tradition with western culture.

“The basic concept is about balance and fusion between the tradition of Korea and the modern culture,” Song said about the central theme of the ceremonies. “The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has asked us to reflect the common value of humanity after the successful opening ceremony during the 2016 Rio Olympics that sent out the messages of sustainment of our environment and world peace.”

Song said he plans to convey the message of peace and unity that has been the central concept of the Olympics since its birth. In ancient Greece, delegations from Greek city-states took part in the early version of the Olympics every four years, during which any hostilities or violence were temporarily ceased. This was known as “Olympic Peace.”

This has lived on in what we know as the Olympics today, as indicated in the Olympic Charter, which states, “Blending sport with culture and education, Olympism seeks to create a way of life based on the joy found in effort … and respect for universal fundamental ethical principles.”

And Song plans to echo this concept into his ceremonies. Song said Korean ancestors have lived in harmony with the nature and the crux of Hallyu is about fusing Korean’s innate joy with the excitement of western pop culture.

“We have to finish filming the footages that will be used in the opening and closing ceremonies by the end of this month,” he said, before reporting the final program agenda for the ceremonies to the Olympic governing body next month.

While the plan is being materialized, it’s been a bumpy ride for Song to get to where he is today.

He had a rough start from the formation of his team when the original list he submitted was disapproved by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and he was eventually assigned producers he had never worked with before.

In addition, rumors that questioned Song’s ability to handle such a large project seemed to have culminated when Jung Ku-ho, a fashion designer and producer in charge of coordinating the stage at the opening and closing ceremonies, resigned, citing discord with the head producer as the reason.

“We had a difference in opinions, but it never led to a conflict,” Song explained. Song further added that if there was any conflict, it might have been between Jung and the government. The Culture Ministry wanted Jung to spend more time in preparation for the Olympics while Jung himself was also busy with his own schedule.

Song now works with Yang Jung-woong, a theater director who was hired few months after Jung’s resignation. The PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic & Paralympic Games (Pocog) said Yang will serve as the executive producer of the ceremonies in December last year.

Looking at past directors who oversaw the opening and closing ceremonies, many were film producers, given that the ceremonies are broadcast on television live. Essentially, the entire world other than the 35,000 spectators at the PyeongChang Olympic Stadium, will watch the show live on TV.

Based on the figures from the 2016 Rio Olympic opening ceremony, as many as 600 million people may be watching.

“Of the three hours of the opening ceremony, only one accounts is the actual show since two hours are the athletes walking in,” he said.

With all the concerns behind him now, Song’s biggest obstable will be the weather conditions on the days of the ceremonies, which are slated for February 9 and 25.

The PyeongChang Olympic Stadium, the venue for the ceremonies, is built for temporary use and is without a roof. With the stage being built in the middle of nowhere high up in the mountains, Jung has to take freezing temperature averaging at negative 20 degrees Celsius as well as wind blowing at an average of 10 meters per second into the consideration. Song had come up with three different plans for any unexpected weather conditions.

“The 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic opening ceremony has already started,” he added.

BY KANG YOO-RIM, SON MIN-HO [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]
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