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(Yonhap Interview) Rio Olympic ceremonies director says PyeongChang should convey 'Korean values'

All Headlines 06:26 August 09, 2016

By Yoo Jee-ho

RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug. 8 (Yonhap) -- The opening ceremony for South Korea's first Winter Games in 2018 should be about delivering the country's values in an international language, the executive director for the Rio Olympic ceremonies said Monday.

In an interview with Yonhap News Agency on Monday, Marco Balich said the 2018 host city of PyeongChang should speak in a contemporary language and address pressing issues of the time.

"My suggestion would be to be a bit daring and not to be conservative about the message that they want to deliver," Balich said in his downtown Rio apartment. To prepare for the opening and closing ceremonies, the Italian has been living in Brazil for a year.

"Global warming and sustainability are the most important issues," Balich said of the two topics that also dominated Rio's opening ceremony. "And PyeongChang should try to showcase to the world what Korea can offer in terms of the contemporary and future meaning for the planet, and the contribution that Korea can make to the planet for a better world."

PyeongChang has named Song Seung-whan, a veteran musical director, as its executive producer for the opening and closing ceremonies. Balich said it's a step in the right direction for PyeongChang to bring on board someone with Song's experience.

Song, an actor-turned-director, is best known for creating the nonverbal performance "Nanta," the longest-running show in South Korea that topped 10 million in attendance last year.

"A person that has musical backgrounds has the right approach to live entertainment," Balich said. "The ceremonies are a very complex machine, where you need to have the best of live and visual entertainment, and film and television framing, and lighting. It's such a big challenge. My suggestion to him would be to speak of Korean values, but talk in international language."

Hosting the Olympics is both "a very strong challenge but a beautiful opportunity," Balich said, adding, "If they think my experience is interesting, I'd be more than honored to come and support PyeongChang."

Balich said there are lots of things to learn from South Korea's "special and astonishing" progress over the past 40 year. Still, he said, the time of simply showcasing a country to the rest of the world is over, and PyeongChang should focus on how Korea can make the most of its capabilities -- in areas such as engineering, shopping, automobiles and high technology -- to make the world better.

"People want to know how the country can contribute to a better world," he said. "And I'd suggest PyeongChang to think not about making the government happy, but making the world happy."

Balich and his team of creative minds were hailed for the opening ceremony that, while lacking the pizzazz and glitz of shows of the past, contained plenty of substance and delivered its message effectively within the constraints of the budget.

The Rio opening ceremony was produced on some US$21 million, about half of what London spent on its show in 2012. Balich said he saw the limited budget "not as a problem, but as an opportunity."

"To create a very opulent ceremony wouldn't have been a right thing to do for Brazil in this moment, given all the problems," he said about the struggling economy here, among other issues. "So we worked on simple things, Overall, it was a very, very down-to-earth ceremony that spoke about Brazil to the world in a way that people understood. The Brazilians are very proud today of themselves."

Balich said he was especially proud of his personal touch on the hybrid Olympic Cauldron, a scaled down burner designed to reduce gas consumption.

He said it would have been "a paradox" for Rio to talk for hours about sustainability and then use a massive cauldron to burn a lot of gas. Balich doesn't think the future ceremonies, including PyeongChang's, can go back to the oversized cauldron again, now that Rio has sent its message.

Balich has had his hands on several Olympic ceremonies, and he said he will always have fond memories of the first one he directed and created at the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics in his native Italy. The Rio ceremony also carries significance for Balich because "it was not the grandest show but it spoke about human values in a way the world understood."

Balich said he is "fixated" with the Olympics because he was once an athlete with a chance to compete at one.

Before the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics, Balich was one of 20 Italian fencers battling for 11 national team spots. He ultimately didn't make it but the experience only fueled his love for sports and the Olympics.

"I treasure the Olympics very much because it's such a beautiful occasion," he said. "The spirit of the Olympics is so special. I truly love to be a part of it."

Balich, one of whose children is a fencer, took his family to watch Italian Daniele Garozzo win the men's individual foil gold medal in Rio on Sunday. Balich called the Italian's victory "one of the best moments of my life."


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