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A spring day in Olympic Park

 Olympic Park in eastern Seoul is a relaxing getaway from the busy streets of the city. An art museum, a barley field, and 1,000-year-old wooden fences from the Baekje Kingdom make the walk a liitle more special (photo courtesy of Olympic Park). Olympic Park in eastern Seoul is a relaxing getaway from the busy streets of the city. An art museum, a barley field, and 1,000-year-old wooden fences from the Baekje Kingdom make the walk a liitle more special (photo courtesy of Olympic Park).

Seoul hosted the 24th Summer Olympic Games in 1988. To accommodate this momentous event, the city constructed numerous facilities and monuments throughout the city and its vicinity. Even long after the games, the 88 Olympic Expressway, Olympic Bridge, Olympic Stadium, and other such structures remain major landmarks of Seoul and happy reminders of that glorious time. Olympic Park is also one of those landmarks. The park is filled with historical, artistic, and natural attractions that make it a veritable cultural destination for Seoulites and others.

HISTORIC PARK

Located south of the Hangang (the river that flows through the capital city) in eastern Seoul, the park stretches over a vast area of 150,000 square meters (approx. 1.6 million square feet). Construction for the park began in 1984 to commemorate the 1988 Summer Olympics and was completed in 1986. The area was originally a historic site of an earthen fortress called Mongchon Toseong, or Mongchon Earthen Fortress, of the Hanseong Baekje Kingdom (18 BC – 475 AD).

Archeological excavation was conducted at Mongchon Toseong before construction of the park began to piece together its history. It was an important site to learn about the first capital of the Hanseong Baekje Kingdom, and a section of the wooden fences that had lined the earthen walls were restored. Visitors to the park can see these wooden fences along the walking paths and learn about the history of the Hanseong Baekje Kingdom. The Hanseong Baekje Museum is also in Olympic Park.

GREEN PARK

Olympic Park attracts many locals for its sports facilities and cultural attractions, as well as its unique historical background. In 1984, the park was designed as a venue for civic sports, cultural activities, and leisure to honor the spirit of the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Over the years, three gymnasiums, an indoor swimming pool, a tennis court, and Olympic Hall were built in the eastern section of the park to hold various events. These are now popular venues for sporting events and concerts throughout the year. Physical fitness equipment is available throughout the park for anyone to use while strolling or jogging.

 The Olympic Park is a venue of civic sports, culture, and leisure where the spirit of the 1988 Seoul Olympics continues to live on (photo courtesy of Olympic Park).The Olympic Park is a venue of civic sports, culture, and leisure where the spirit of the 1988 Seoul Olympics continues to live on (photo courtesy of Olympic Park).

The park has five walkways and jogging paths that cut through the shrubbery, making a walk in the park more enjoyable. Lakeside Lane, Fortress Lane, Memory Lane, Lovers’ Lane, and Youth Lane all circle the park’s scenic attractions, and each has its own unique charms. On a sunny day, one can easily see the elderly or mothers with strollers walking or exercising on the paths. Lovers’ Lane, which winds along Seongnae Stream and passes through a pine grove, is perfect for couples who want to enjoy a leisurely stroll. Youth Lane is recommended for avid joggers. The path has an unobstructed view of the outer ring of Olympic Park and is actually used as part of the routes of marathons and other running events. The endless stretch of green grass and the grove make one’s visit even more enjoyable.

Ever since the park was built, the dense greenery of Olympic Park has developed over the last 30 years and as a result has become a veritable ecological park of Seoul. Barley is cultivated on the flat green land in the western section of the park. The groundskeepers grow barley and other grains all year round, and visitors can take part in the harvesting in autumn. The special picnic area is open to everyone for recreation and picnicking, and on weekends it is frequented mainly by families.

CULTURAL PARK

Olympic Park is also frequently visited by Seoulites for its many cultural performances and artistic attractions. When the weather is warm, Seoul’s citizens and amateur musicians perform in the amphitheater of the 88 Lake Water Stage. The lake view behind the stage is the perfect backdrop for musical performances on a summer night. Visitors will notice large sculptures on the lawn next to the main entrance. This area is the Seoul Olympic Sculpture Park. Most of the sculptures are works by prominent Korean and foreign artists to commemorate the Seoul Olympics. The SOMA Museum of Art was opened to make the park a venue of education. The museum hosts many exhibitions for young students along with educational programs such as art classes and sketch tours inside the park.

 A variety of performances are presented on the outdoor stage in Olympic park (photo courtesy of Olympic Park).A variety of performances are presented on the outdoor stage in Olympic park (photo courtesy of Olympic Park).

Olympic Park is ready to welcome visitors with a long list of spring performances and newly planted wild flowers. A weekend spent in Olympic Park is sure to bring more than just a ray of sunshine.

*Article from Korea Magazine (May 2012)

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