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F1 Korean Grand Prix gamely prepares for third run this weekend
Korea wants a piece of the Formula One pie, but Psy and all the money in the world can't buy off weather, disinterest and the complete lack of a motor sports culture ... Or can it?
South Korea has been hosting the F1 Korea Grand Prix for two years now, and this year's Formula One event, the 16th F1 race of the 2012 season, will begin on Friday, October 12.
Two years may be still too young for veteran status, perhaps, but old enough to be judged.
Press and public opinion have not been kind to the first two years of the Korea Grand Prix, with criticisms leveled at everything from the location of the Korea International Circuit -- in Yeongam, a neglected southwest corner of the peninsula -- to lack of overall preparation.
The rough 2010 debut was marked by an incomplete circuit and prolonged delays due to the pouring rain.
Local media criticized the lack of infrastructure, often citing the fact that BBC sports presenter Jake Humphrey slept in a love motel during the event. (Although Humphrey writes enthusiastically of his enjoyable time at the F1 in Japan on his blog, he is markedly silent about Yeongam).
"Last year, it was a complete mess," says Mark Kwon, 35, a Seoul-based racing fan. "There were three-hour queues and lack of organization, but the actual event itself was great and world-class in terms of facilities and match management."
He says he probably won't go this year.
"The traffic is so awful and there were a lot of hard-core racing fans who created a pretty hostile atmosphere amidst the whole mess outside."
But while 2011 may not have been a smashing success, with rain, once again, acting as a party pooper -- neither was it the disaster of 2010.
With Sebastian Vettel of the Red Bull team winning the Grand Prix and Red Bull taking the prize for constructors, F1 Fanatic, a website for Formula One fans rated the 2011 Korean Grand Prix a 7 or 8 out of 10.
According to an official interview transcript from the organizing committee, last year the event received about 160,000 visitors.
They expect at least the same amount this year, and are employing more creative marketing.
The concert will only be open to people who have tickets to the Sunday race.
As Korea's not exactly bursting with F1 fans, what's the reason that this project has been getting ₩78.5 billion, or about US$70 million (56 percent of which is government funding) for the past five years?
As usual, the reason is tourism.
As part of a project called the "J-project," an attempt to make the aforementioned neglected corner of South Korea more attractive, the Formula One event is only one component in a huge and ambitious blueprint for a brand-new city of leisure travel.
Unfortunately, while the vague hope of future profits for municipal governments may be a worthwhile goal, it doesn't necessarily translate into crowds. We'll see what happens this year.
You can purchase tickets here to see drivers Fernando Alonso of Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull and other drivers battle it out on the track.
The final race on October 14 at 3 p.m., preceded by practice races that begin on October 12 and a qualifying on October 13.
Korean official site: www.korean-grand-prix.com
Official F1 site: www.formula1.com
Directions: There are free shuttle bus services from the Korea International Circuit to key stops in Mokpo: Muan Airport, Mokpo Train Station and Mokpo Bus Terminal. +82 1588 3448; +82 61 288 5080
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