BUSAN, South Korea — The city of London has waited seven years, but the time has finally come for the 2012 Summer Olympics to take the British capital by storm.
London is hosting the games for the third time in the modern era, the only city to lay such a claim. With a budget of $14.7 billion, the Olympic Park, a former deprived industrial center, is ready to take center stage for two weeks of joy, heartache and pain.
There will be plenty of people to keep an eye on during the Olympics, including stars of the 2008 games such as Usian Bolt, Michael Phelps and Chris Hoy. The oldest Olympian, 71-year-old Japanese equestrian Hiroshi Hoketsu, will also be a great story to watch unfold. However, here on the peninsula, Korea has its own ambitions, and they set the bar high.
In 2008, Korea brought home an impressive 13 golds, 10 silvers and eight bronze medals from Beijing, far exceeding expectations. This time around, they are hoping for a top 10 finish in the Gold Standings, and are confident that they have the squad to accomplish that.
Traditionally, Korea has excelled in archery, taekwondo, judo, badminton and shooting. But Korean Olympic Chairman Park Yong-sung believes they can compete for medals in other disciplines as well. “Since I took the helm of the NTC in January 2011, I have strived to nurture other potential events and found them in boxing, wrestling and gymnastics,” Park said in a January interview.
Unfortunately for Korea, baseball has been cancelled this Olympics, and they won’t have a chance to defend their impressive gold medal feat from Beijing.
The 30th Summer Olympic Games will take place from July 27 through to August 12 and can be seen nationally on TV on SBS Sports.
Who to Keep an Eye On in London
All eyes will be on swimmer Park Tae-hwan, Korea’s ‘Golden Boy’ of the pool. The defending 400-meter freestyle champion will be looking to repeat on his success at the 2008 Beijing Games. He was recently named MVP at the Mel Zajac, Jr. International Canada Cup winning the 200m and 400m freestyle and finished runner-up at the 50m and 100m freestyle.
Currently ranked fifth in the world, rhythmic gymnast Son Yeon-jae could catapult to stardom in Korea if she medals in London. The 18-year-old has trained in Russia for three years, practicing with her Russian coach in a gym where many of her competitors from Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan also exercise. She was the first Korean to bring home an international medal at a discipline final, winning a bronze medal, also in the hoop, at the Grand Prix in Moscow in February.
Lee Yong-dae and Jung Jae-sung
The badminton duo of Lee Yong-dae and Jung Jae-sung are also favorites to bring home some hardware in London. After their surprise gold in Beijing, they became the youngest gold medalists in the sport. They look to have another epic battle with rivals China’s pair of Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng. They are coming in fresh off their second Indonesia Open title, though Jung has had a recurring back injury in recent months.
Jang Mi-ran and Sa Jae-hyouk
Jang will be looking for a repeat in the +75kg women’s weightlifting division, where she broke the world records in clean and jerk and snatch in Beijing lifting 140kg in the snatch,and 186kg in the clean and jerk for a combined 326kg. The 165cm tall Sa also brought home gold in the men’s 77kg class in Beijing. Jang completed her "grand slam" in 2010 as champion in the Summer Olympics, world championships and Asian Games.
The Olympic Soccer team has drawn Mexico, Switzerland and Gabon in what looks to be a tight Group B. Celtic’s Ki Seung-yong, Sunderland’s Ji Dong-won and Cerezo Osaka midfielder Kim Bo-kyung have a chance to lead the Red Devils to their first ever Olympic football medal. With Arsenal's Park Chu-young as a late addition, their chances improved greatly for their first medal ever.
With 20/200 vision, 26-year-old archer Im Dong-hyun is legally blind, but it hasn’t stopped him from winning two Olympic Golds and four world championships. He’ll be looking to add to his impressive resume in London. He does not wear corrective glasses or contacts during competition, and has refused offers of free eye surgery to improve his vision. He is currently viewed by many as the best archer in the world.
You can check out the official London Olympics website here for news and information about the games.