Yough Pioneer Tours

What is the Mass Games?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock – or worse still, you just aren’t that into North Korea – you might have heard that the Mass Games are back. But what exactly are the Mass Games, and where on earth did they come from in the first place? Don’t worry: we got you covered!

Mass games, Arirang Festival, Glorious Fatherland: are all words bandied about to mean the same the thing. In actual fact they are all the same, but different. The Mass Games as a concept are not actually games, but a mass gymnastics performance.

In its current incarnation it is the ‘Grand Mass Gymnastics and Artistic Performance Glorious Fatherland’, held at the world’s largest stadium: the May Day Stadium in Pyongyang.

The Mass Games has its origins, would you believe it, from Soviet times, when the Russkies felt that the Olympics were a pile of Capitalist tosh and that they should have their own Olympics, but with a cooler name. In 1928 they therefore invented Spartakiad, named after the rebel slave Spartacus (cue everyone standing up and saying “I’m Spartacus”). Between 1928 and 1937 There were 10 Spartakiads before the sequel to World War I kicked in and people had other things on their mind. I’ve digressed somewhat, but one major part of the Spartakiad was mass dancing and gymnastics; a theme that would continue across socialist lines.

After World War Two, many countries decided they wanted to be communist and stay behind an Iron Curtain, and one of the benefits of this was that they got to have their very own Spartakiads. There are some great clips of mass games happening in Albania under Hoxha, and Romania under Ceausescu.

After the DPRK was founded, the North also engaged in Spartakiad-type events before putting their own spin on things in 1961 called “The Era of the Workers Party”. Since then there’s been over 100 variations under different titles until we get to 2002 and the most famous one: Arirang.

Arirang is the most famous folk song in Korean, and could arguably be called the unofficial anthem of the two Koreas. The Arirang Festival, as it would become known, was the incarnation of the Mass Games that lasted from 2002 until 2013. We remember it very well! Now whilst the theme was Arirang, it could also be said that it was themed around the era of Generalissimo Kim Jong Il. Then there was a 5-year hiatus.

In 2018 it was announced that the Grand Mass Gymnastics and Artistic Performance were back and would now be titled Glorious Fatherland, or Glorious Country (depending on your translation). In short we went, and it was epic!

And for the last year we have all been waiting with bated breath to see if it returned, or not, and today we got exactly what we wanted: the Glorious Fatherland Mass Games performance will be returning for August 2019!

Seats are limited, so get booking now!

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