Sport in North Korea
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North Korea participates in both traditional and western sports.
Perhaps the most well known sporting event in North Korea is the annual Arirang Festival, held at Rungrado May Day Stadium in Pyongyang on April 15 of every year in celebration of the birthdate of Kim il-Sung.
The main attraction of Arirang is the mass gymnastics display, a vast performance featuring tens of thousands of performers performed with an accompaniment of card-turning mosaic performers occupying seats in the stands directly across from spectators. Often, performers (including card-turners) outnumber the spectators during these displays.
In May 2002, an Arirang performance, thought to be the largest ever produced in North Korea, featured 100,000 participants, a number that was twice the number of spectators, that was initiated in honor of Kim Jong-il's 60th birthday. This performance was open to foreigners, a rarity, and critics claimed that the extravaganza was an effort to distract from the 2002 FIFA World Cup, which was being co-hosted by South Korea.
1966 World Cup
In 1966, the national football team advanced to the FIFA World Cup held in England. After sixteen teams withdrew from qualifying in the Asian/African Zone, the North Korean team had a two-game series against Australia in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The North Koreans won both games and qualified for the World Cup.
In the quarterfinal round, the North Koreans faced the Portugal national football team. The North Koreans scored three unanswered goals in the first 24 minutes. Portugal needed a four-goal effort by Eusébio to pull out a 5-3 victory.
2010 World Cup
The Chollima did not qualify for any further World Cup finals until they advanced to the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Both Koreas qualified for the 2010 finals, but they were in different first-round groups. The second-round knockout stage of the tournament was set up so the two Korean sides could not meet till the semifinals. The North Korea team failed to get past the group stages, finishing bottom of the group and losing all three matches.
North Korea has domestic leagues for both men and women, and all games take place at Kim Il-sung Stadium in Pyongyang. Traditionally major teams in the men's league include "April 25", "Pyongyang Municipal", and "Rimyongsu".
In September 2010, the first official friendly match between a domestic football team and a foreign club took place in the Kim Il-Sung Stadium . In these two matches Singapore-based "German All Stars" (GAS) played two matches against the 2nd and 3rd team of Pyongyang. The matches ended 1-0 respectively 4-2 for the Korean side. GAS Midfielder Matthias Bertl became the first German footballer to ever score a goal in the DPRK and also the first ever to score two goals. Further first-time records were set by Rene Schieber with the first ever shot on goal by a German footballer and Hendrik Bohne being the first footballer to nutmeg a DPRK player during an official match. As part of the team Simone Magnani become the first ever Italian to play a friendly in the DPRK. The Team was led by Florian Schmidt as the Captain for the opening match and consisted further of Steffen Schacher, Ingo Hartmann, Joerg Buenzel, Dr. Hermann Bergmann, Denis Mecklenburg, Philipp von Pein, Helge Muenkel and Thomas Berner in addition to previous mentioned players.
Domestic Football for Women
Since 1993, the women's football team has seen more success on the national stage than the men's side, qualifying for the 1999, 2003 and 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup. In 1999, the team defeated Denmark during the group stage, and in 2003 defeated African champion Nigeria. The women's team has established itself as one of the strongest in Asia, winning the 2001 and 2003 AFC Women's Asian Cups after finishing as the runner-up in 1993 and 1997.
In September 2010, the Middlesbrough Ladies football team toured the country for a series of friendlies. They played two matches, unaware that they would be playing professional sides. They played 4.25 Sports Group, losing 6-2, and Kalmaegi, losing 5-0. The visit gave Middlesbrough their largest ever attendance, with both matches attracting 6,000 people each, beating the previous recorded of 1,000 when they played Arsenal Ladies.
North Korea has a men’s team that is ranked 43rd out of 49 in the IIHF and will compete in Division II in 2011. A domestic hockey league began operations in 1955, the same year the Ice Hockey Association of the DPR Korea was founded. Clubs are based in such cities as Pyongyang, Kaesong, Kanggye and Nampho.
The women’s team is ranked 21 out of 34 and competes in Division II.
North Korea currently has one golf course in use; the Pyongyang Golf Complex. The course is 18 holes and situated 20 miles from Pyongyang. In 2011 the first ever DPRK Amateur Golf Open took place and is now an annual event, open to nationalities from all around the world.
North Korea in the Olympics
North Korea's first Summer Olympics appearance on its own was in the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, West Germany, taking home five medals, including one gold. Four years later, in Montreal, the nation took one gold and one silver in boxing, and took five medals in boxing, freestyle wrestling, and weightlifting in Moscow. In 1984, the nation joined the Eastern bloc boycott of the Los Angeles Games, and four years later, boycotted the Games held in Seoul due to the South's unwillingness to co-host the event with the North. Despite a mostly unified Communist boycott in 1984, Cuba, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Nicaragua, and Seychelles joined the North Korean boycott in 1988.
The nation returned to Olympic competition in 1992 at the Barcelona Games, winning an unprecedented nine medals in Spain, four of them gold.
At the Athens Games in 2004, the North and South marched together in the opening and closing ceremonies under the Unification Flag, but competed separately. North Korea has medaled in every Summer Olympics they have participated in.
North Korean athletes have competed in several Winter Olympics competitions as well, first competing at the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck. Han Pil-Hwa took silver medal in the women's 3000 meters of speed skating at the game. Another North Korean Winter Olympic medal was a bronze in 1992 at the Albertville Games when Hwang Ok-Sil took third place in the women's 500 meters of short-track speed skating. The North and South again marched under the Unification Flag at the Turin Games in 2006.
In 1995, a crew from defunct national professional wrestling promotion World Championship Wrestling, led by company Executive Producer Eric Bischoff and former World Champion Ric Flair among others, flew to Pyongyang via China to participate in an "International Peace Festival" co-organised by North Korea and Japanese politician Antonio Inoki, himself a former professional wrestling icon. Over the course of two days, WCW played to an audience of 340,000, at Pyongyang May Day stadium, the largest ever audience for a professional wrestling show, with a main event on the final night of Inoki vs. Flair, with a guest appearance by boxing icon Muhammad Ali. However, the presence of armed guards in the audience points to the show being another carefully planned exercise in propaganda, with many wrestlers falsely quoted in state media as hailing Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung. Bischoff's autobiography also contains anecdotes about phone-tapping, cultural attaches, and taking his morning jog on the streets of Pyongyang.
Matches from the two shows, as well as footage from inside Pyongyang and a mass gymnastic display, were released on pay-per-view and VHS some 17 months after the event, entitled Collision in Korea, and though the PPV performed dismally, pulling a 0.15, the VHS release has become something of a cult hit among longtime wrestling fans and North Korean culture enthusiasts, the atmosphere of the show being so radically different from American wrestling's usual bombast and pageantry.
Sport in North Korean cinema
- "Fifa investigates North Korea World Cup abuse claims". BBC. 11 August 2010. Retrieved 20 September 2010.
- "Middlesbrough Ladies footballers back from North Korea". BBC. 24 September 2010. Retrieved 24 September 2010.
- men's world ranking 2010 via http://www.iihf.com/de/home-of-hockey
- DPK Asian Mystery via www.icehockey.lu
- women's world ranking 2010 via http://www.iihf.com/de/home-of-hockey
- "DPRK Amateur Golf Open". DPRK.
- "DPRK Amateur Golf Open 2011". CNN.
- KSF.com.kp - Official Website of the Korea Sports Fund (Faster Korea)