Ewha, the alpha and omega of the 88 Seoul Opening Ceremony
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Ewha, the alpha and omega of the 88 Seoul Opening Ceremony
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  • 승인 2008.10.13 23:36
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For some reason, the entire Korean population is split into two groups: those who remember the glory of the 1988 Seoul Olympics Opening Ceremony and those who simply cannot. The latter are often teased for their greenness. However, even the older generation will be surprised to know that exactly 20 years ago, the students ofEwhaUniversity were the first and last to decorate the grand opening ceremony of the 1988 Seoul Olympics.   

         Choi Kyung-eun (’91, Department of Dance), now an instructor at Seoul Arts High School, remembers herself as a carefree sophomore when the eyes of the whole world met her on September 17, 1988 at the Jamsil Stadium. Together with the rest of her classmates, she danced, ran and jumped in a mass game called ‘the Light of the Beginning,’ the first performance in the grand opening lineup. The entire program was choreographed by Professor Yook Wan-soon (Modern Dance), currently the president of ‘The Modern Dance Promotion of Korea’. Even male students fromSejongUniversity and nearby high schools were recruited to assist in lifts and other moves.

          The ceremony itself was truly an important, global event. But to the students, the preparations were all merely amusing at first. “Since there were too many dancers, we rehearsed in groups at Hyo-Chang Stadium over the summer break. We used to wait five to six hours just to use the facility after every other opening ceremony rehearsal,” said Choi. “We chatted for hours.”

         But when the day of the final rehearsal came around, things were quite different. “The stadium was chaos with people running around in all four directions, rolling over on the grass and trying to keep in line,” said Choi. “It finally dawned upon us that we were actually about to perform in front of the whole world.”

          ‘The Light of the Beginning’ was a huge success. Students dressed in white moved as though pulled by magnets to form the letters ‘88’, ‘WELCOME,’ and the Korean word ‘Eoseo oseyo,’ which means welcome. The whole world roared in delight as the students finally shaped the official 1988 Seoul Olympics emblem in white, blue, red, green and yellow.

          Some time after the first grand opening performance came the true highlight of the ceremony, the torch relay. As Lim Chun-ae (’92, Human Movement) ran onto the stage, a hush fell over the excited crowd. Lim circled the Jamsil Stadium with the sacred Olympic torch and reached the center of the stadium. Twenty years later, she recalls being only slightly nervous and even mildly indifferent on what an honor it was to be the final torch carrier. “At the time, I confess I was just too anxious about not dropping the gigantic thing. It was awfully heavy,” said Lim, heroine and triple gold medalist runner of the 1986 Asian Games. “There were also sparks crackling in all directions. Another torch carrier actually wound up with a burnt hole in his sneakers.”

          The thin freshman was the final person to deliver the burning torch, marking the end of the grand opening ceremony. Son Ki-jung, the famous gold medalist marathon runner of the 1936 Berlin Olympics who was forced to run with a Japanese flag on his chest, had originally been appointed secretly as the last torch carrier. However, the Japanese media found out at the last second and exposed the news world wide. Lim heard the news on a last minute phone call at 11:00 p.m. She was rushed out to the Jamsil Stadium with the President of Ewha Womans University. After circling the stadium once, she was told she was ready.

“I vividly remember my friends and Ewha professors telling me what a lucky, important girl I was to have been picked as a participant of the grand opening of the 1988 Seoul Olympics. But to be honest, I still don’t really know why I was picked.” said Lim, now a happy mother of three children. “To me, it’s just a wonderful memory.”


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