The Ulsan Munsu Football Stadium has finally been unveiled as a superb new arena designed to enhance the city's proud reputation as a Mecca of Korean football.
The striking new stadium in Ulsan has been a centre of attention for football fans all around the globe as one of the three Korean venues for this year's FIFA Confederations Cup, living up to its reputation earned on several visits by FIFA officials as a truly world-class facility.
The Munsu Stadium is built on an area of approximately 900,000m2 in Ulsan, in south-eastern Korea. It has two levels below ground and three above ground. With its environment of natural ponds and thick forests on the nearby Mt. Munsu and Mt. Namam, this stadium counts as one of the most beautiful of the 20 World Cup venues.
The architects certainly knew what they were doing : in this scenic setting, they have created a stadium whose structure represents the image of a crane, the bird that is the symbol of the city of Ulsan. The elegance and pureness of a crane is depicted in the overall design inspired by the shape of the bird in characteristic crouching position, about to take off in flight.
Equally symbolically, the image of Ulsan itself is set to soar high in the 21st century as the industrial capital of Korea. This is the home of the Hyundai company, one of the official partners of the 2002 FIFA World Cup in the category of automobiles but a conglomerate whose businesses also include oil refining, petrochemicals, shipbuilding and machinery. Ulsan is also a producing center of quality amethyst and features a theme park devoted to this attractive violet-coloured stone. But there are beaches as well as industry in Ulsan: Jujeon beach is famous for its black pebbles, while Jinhu beach is picturesquely surrounded by pine trees.
The city had its prime status as the nation's top industrial producer in mind when it decided on the stadium's overall structure, systematically aiming to maximize the simplicity of its basic design by incorporating the sharp extension cables of the roof to represent the city's intention to reach out to the world.
Centre of football
The grand opening day on 28 April saw a variety of events taking place for the people of Ulsan, and the local addiction for football was satisfied by a special match between Ulsan Hyundai Tigers and the top Brazilian side Botafogo. The game was preceded by large-scale musical shows including Samulnori (a traditional musical performance accompanied by four percussion instruments) as well as by the grand overture by Korea's leading tenors, the City Orchestra, the City Choir and the 234-strong Grand Choir.
The opening of the Munsu Football Stadium has marked a new chapter in the city's history as it promotes Ulsan's image as a Mecca of football both at home and abroad. With matches of the FIFA World Cup just a year away, the dream is coming ever closer to reality; and thanks to this splendid new home for the locals' favourite sport, the future will no doubt see the evolution of a new and even more dynamic breed of football culture that will measure with the very best in world football.