The atmosphere of the whole tournament was great and we got better as the week progressed. In fact, although loosing in singles, I did notched up three victories, two in mixed doubles and the other in women’s doubles. The hospitality and organization was the best that I have ever experienced. From buffet lunches and private translators, to saunas, golf lessons and participation gifts, a day trip to Seoul, Korea and the Championships were an unforgettable experience. I hope to be able to post some more photos personal photos of our groups experience shortly.
A great memory was the nightclub, which we discovered in neighboring city to Anseong. To access it, we had to enter the building’s lift. There was an elderly man and a woman holding a tiny child. Surely, this couldn’t be right, a nightclub couldn’t be in this same building. The lift climbed higher, the man got out, a couple got in. Finally after numerous stops our group was the only one left inside. The lift chimed, our floor had been reached. The doors opened. On all the other floors the doors had opened and had revealed silent flats. On our floor, the doors opened and immediately our eyes were blasted with the sound of hard core techno. The drinks available were beer or whiskey. Accompanied with the bottle came a plate of dried fish (which I chewed on for about a minute and then had repellant breathe for the whole night), a huge platter of fruit and bizarrely a carten of milk? The DJ shouted above the music, which ranged from techno to techno mixed with “I’m a Barbie Girl” to slow ballades where couples would swarm onto the floor. Acrobats walked along trapeze wires above the revelers and suited Korea businessmen who had been calmy sipping on their drinks, took of their glasses and head banged to the music.
The closing ceremony was wonderful, great food, music, more acrobatics. All the teams and all nationalities mixed and danced together around a giant camp fire and we went round congratulating the real heroes and stars of the show, who were the Koreans, the Chinese, and the Japanese teams, who truly showed us the beauty of the game.
The team gathered outside the arena, the music, chants and sounds deafeningly loud. We waited and waited and waited.The call finally came…SPAIN!It was finally our turn. We walked out and onto the catwalk, my eyes blinded by light. I waved at the cameras, at the thousands of supporters swaying and moving to the directions of the crowd leaders. The sight was incredible, the festivities only beginning.
The Namsadang consists of male performers who present various performing arts. It is said that Namsadang was spontaneously formed before 1900 during the Joseon Dynasty and used to wander about marketplaces and villages.The troupe was well-organized and strictly disciplined by rules. Namsadang’s performances were held on the ground instead of theaters. Their sequence comprises of music, dance, acrobatics, spinning streamers, percussion, spinning dishes in the air using sticks whilst exchanging witty banter with a clown,tightrope walking and puppet plays.
Probably the most famous and eminent person ever in the history of nNmsadang is Baudeogi. Her real name was Kim Amdeok. She was born as the daughter of a poor peasant farmer and joined the troupe at the age of 5 in 1853. She had the great makings of the six performances, and with her amazing skills and artistic talent, became a big star among the public. When Baudeogi was 15, she was unanimously elected as the leader of the troupe by the troupe members. This was quite unusual because at that time only men could become leaders and she was so young. However this is testimony to her talents and high popularity. In 1865, Heungseon Daewongun, the regency, called in her troupe to court and had them cheer workers who engaged in constructing a new palace. They were very successful in their task, and the regency gave her a jade headband button. At that time, only high rank officials could possess this and from that point on her fame spread all over the country. This moment is regarded as the beginning of Korean entertainment business and Baudeogi is considered to be the first popular entertainer of Korea. A festival is held in Anseong every October and is called the “Baudeogi Festival” in her honour.
Have you ever dreamt that you are in an exam only to open the paper and find that you have studied for the wrong subject. Worst still, you have been chosen to play for Manchester United in their most important match of the season and once out onto the pitch in front of thousands of screaming fans, you realize that you can’t pass the ball properly let alone tackle or score a goal. Unfortunately for me, this nightmare actually came true, when I was chosen to represent Spain in the World Soft Tennis Champsionships in Korea.
On arrival, we were greeted by hundreds of fervent supporters, who waved flags, chanted “we love you”, jostled with each other to carry our bags. My aim had been simple, loose badly in the first round and just go for the free holiday. No one would see the epic defeat, my humiliation would be kept between myself and my opponent, a dirty secret kept thankfully due to any victors lack of thought space for the looser. As reporters fought to get the first interview and flowers were thrust into our hands, I suddenly felt a feeling of dread and guilt rise from the pit of my stomach. So much effort had been put into the Championships, and the people had so much pride in this sport, as my team mates elaborated to the press on their chances of success at the tournament, I couldn’t help think of my last practice and the balls which had gone flying out of the court and into the parking lot. All I could do was hope for a miracle.
When the crowds were distanced from the coach, we drove South to Anseong to our 5* Hotel, the Lake Hills Golf Hotel. On route we stopped off for a welcome buffet lunch (food all quite wierd), in a beautiful park with great views, carved trees and sculptures.
I was told afterwards that Soft Tennis is played by over 30 million people in Asia and that by including other federations in the World Championships, they would get international recognition which is needed in order for a sport to be eligible for Olympic status.