After a long day of visiting the sights of Pyongyang, my guides took me to the famous Arirang Games in the Rungrado 1st of May Stadium.
The Rungrado 1st of May Stadium was built in 1987 and is the largest stadium of the world with a total capacity of 114,000 seats. Since major international sports events do not happen very often in North Korea, the stadium is mainly used for the Arirang Games also known as Grand Mass Gymnastics. This festival is held annually for a variable number of months and with changing themes since 2002 (with exceptions in 2006 and between 2014 and 2017). It is known to be the biggest gymnastics event in the world with more than 100,000 performers! One of the most impressive part of the Arirang Games are card stunts performed by around 25,000 students who create moving images over half of the stadium.
We entered the stadium well before the actual start of the show and were able to see the choreographed entrance and warm-up of the students.
Just before the show started, I was told that I am not allowed to take photographs with my fancy DSLR camera. Consequently, I took the following photos and video clips with my smartphone. The title of the Arirang Games in 2019 was “The Land of the People”.
The show itself was really mind-blowing! It had exceptional artistic performances and the sheer number of performers was overwhelming! Apart from gymnastics, it featured musical performances, step dance, drone choreographies, tightrope walking, and much more. The entrance fee of 100 Euro is quite high, but I guess, if you made it as far as Pyongyang, you should invest the extra money. They also offer higher-priced tickets (300 to 800 Euro per person), but I think the views are more or less similar from the different seats. During the show, images of North Korea’s leaders are shown and it is expected that you get up in respect and clap your hands.
I was told that most of the performers are volunteering students who participate only for one season. I wondered how much of this participation is really voluntary – but who can truly say anything definitive about North Korea?