Photo by Kevin Coyne
Palos Heights native Kendall Coyne, in white uniform, scored a goal against Finland.
Southwest Regional Publishing correspondent Kevin Coyne, along with his family of seven, traveled from Chicago to South Korea to watch his sister, Kendall Coyne, compete in ice hockey and experience all the Olympics and South Korea has to offer for over two weeks. Here is the first of three columns:
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — The Olympics started with a bang, and the Coyne family is here to experience everything there is to offer in South Korea.
We departed O’Hare Airport on Feb. 7 and arrived at Seoul Incheon Airport on Friday morning. After traveling through time, we completely missed a day.
My brother, Jake, 23, and I ended up in a taxi where we did our best to get a feel for the Korean culture and how much they knew about American and British culture. Our taxi driver, Jinn-Soo, said he loved rock music, specifically Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, and Mick Jagger. When asked about music, he mentioned the lead singers’ names as opposed to the bands they played in, but we knew that he had good taste in classic rock music.
We enjoyed a wide range of Korean dining in one filling and satisfying meal after over 14 hours on a cramped airplane. The meal started with a creamy soup followed by noodles complemented with fresh vegetables and other Korean novelties.
After we enjoyed the noodles, we started to enjoy real Korean culture: the meat.
After the third dish of beef, chicken and pork, we got to the final dish — Korean steak. We used scissors to cut the plump and juicy steak and add some of the veggies from one of the several plates on our table.
Getting ready for the opening ceremonies included a lot of warm clothing. We got ready to endure the bitter cold and hellish wind supplied by the mountains at the Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium. The temperature reached a low of 17 degrees.
The stadium was at its maximum capacity of 39,000, along with the largest athlete pool of 2,900 representing 92 different countries.
After the parade of athletes and the lighting of the Olympic torch, most fans left the stadium, which was a terrible mistake. The grand finale, or encore, included a massive fireworks display. We spent nearly three hours in the stadium, but the final 15 minutes of the show made braving the cold worthwhile.
Immediately following the ceremonies, we were herded to the buses that were supposed to take spectators to the main KTX station in Jinbu. Unbeknownst to us, the bus driver had other plans, which included leaving us in a desolate, empty parking lot in the freezing cold.
Luckily, one of the volunteers spoke to an incoming bus driver who went out of his way to take a group of tired, cold and unruly Americans to the main train station after waiting 30 minutes for some sort of assistance.
Once we arrived at the KTX or KROL station, we learned that the only way to get a taxi in South Korea is by waiting in a long line outside of a train station or by asking a business owner to call on your behalf.
We took the next best option: taking a long two-mile walk home.
On day two, we spent hours watching snowboarders fly hundreds of feet above our heads. The twisting, spinning, and flipping was a mouth-dropping sight. We even witnessed a Swedish athlete take a blow that rendered him unconscious.
We stopped by a small coffee shop about 100 feet from our home to get lunch. We asked the business owner to call a taxi to take us over to the venue. We struggled to communicate with the gentleman, but it appeared that he knew exactly what we were asking him.
We spent 15 minutes going back and forth before the Korean gentleman gestured for us to follow him. He removed his apron and began to get in his car. He then said in broken English “no taxi” and “I take you,” which was enough for us to understand.
The ride was only 10 minutes, and we attempted to pay the man 20,000 won ($20 USD) but he refused. We will make it a point to eat every meal at his establishment in an attempt to pay him back for the ride.
We attended the short-track speedskating event, watching nearly 15 races. However, we spent hours in the freezing cold attempting to catch a taxi. This is now the second night we went through this song and dance.
After the first hour elapsed, we needed to get out of the freezing cold. We also did not dress warm enough to be sitting outside for hours on end. We ended up taking a bus 30 minutes away from our destination to get a taxi from one of the KTX stations.
We again had no luck getting a taxi once we got to the station and again made the two- to three-mile walk back home in the bitter cold.
A goal for Kendall
On day three, we spent a few hours singing, having fun and talking about the coming game against Finland. At the end of the tailgate, a Chicago news station dropped by to join the fun. It was great to talk with other Olympic families and the individuals who spent the past few days capturing all the great stories from around South Korea.
With five seconds left in the first period, Finland popped the only goal of the period. But the United States won that opener, 3-1, and Kendall scored one of the goals. After the game we were able to see Kendall along with her teammates and the other Olympic family members.