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[Video] Athletes are lovin’ it: McDonald’s store becomes popular hangout at PyeongChang Olympics

Burger giant simultaneously celebrates 30th anniversary in Korea with contributions, donations

When the 17 day-long 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics kicked off on Feb. 9, every detail regarding the athletes -- from what medals they are expected to win to what food they are eating -- has received worldwide attention.

While Gangwon Province, the Olympic host region, has been crowded with a variety of global food restaurants, the US fast food chain has been at the center of attention, which again, carried on its tradition of serving athletes free meals at the Olympics.

(Shot and Edited by Park Ju-young)

Signature meals offered for free at McDonald’s has long been a perk for Olympic athletes. With its soaring popularity among athletes, the fast food chain was even forced to limit orders to 20 items per visit at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games due to intense demand.

The fast-food chain’s tradition of providing free meals to athletes goes back to 1996, when it first opened a store inside the Olympics athlete’s village in Atlanta. Since then, McDonald’s has become one of the most favorite places during the Olympics. 

McDonald’s Korea’s Gangneung Olympic Park store (McDonald’s Korea)
McDonald’s Korea’s Gangneung Olympic Park store (McDonald’s Korea)

For this Winter Games, McDonald’s Korea opened two locations in Gangneung, including one restaurant that is shaped like a burger, fries, and a drink. 

This hamburger meal-shaped restaurant is located at the Gangneung Olympic Park, close to ice sports arena, where up to 160 customers can fit. Another store located inside the athlete’s village is run exclusively to athletes with free offers.

As soon as the one and only hamburger-shaped McDonald’s store opened, it immediately went viral online, becoming one of the must-visit landmarks during the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. 

According to the company, a total of 81,000 people made visits to this unique store in just 10 days after its opening, especially with a long queue in front of a photo wall installed next to the French fries-shaped booth. 

Inside McDonald’s Korea’s Gangneung Olympic Park store (McDonald’s Korea)
Inside McDonald’s Korea’s Gangneung Olympic Park store (McDonald’s Korea)

“While the store is always busy with customers, all employees here are working with great passion and are proud to be able to serve customers during this historic Olympics moment,” said Kim Jang-mi, manager of McDonald’s Korea’s Gangneung Olympic Park store, adding that the number of visitors was beyond their expectations. 

Some 260 employees were dispatched to the two stores operated during the Olympics.

“These employees, called McDonald’s Team Korea Crew or McDonald’s Brand Ambassador, are the selected best few who can give the best service to visitors and athletes from across the globe. We, as part of the Olympics, also regard ourselves as representatives of Korea to provide the best food, service as well as an unforgettable memory,” the company said, adding that free Olympics games tickets and four-star hotel accommodation are one of many perks that employees have received for serving at the Olympic stores. 

To support these employees, Joe Erlinger, president of McDonald’s High Growth Markets Segment, had breakfast with local staff in Sokcho, Gangwon Province on Tuesday. 

For McDonald’s Korea, 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics means a lot – it is the 30 year anniversary since the fast food giant has entered Korea in 1988, which was also the year of the Seoul Summer Olympics.

To celebrate its 30th anniversary in Korea and the second Olympics held here, the Korean branch of the US food chain said it has donated Olympic tickets to people in need.

On Jan. 22, the company gave 900 Olympic tickets to multiracial families in Gangwon Province.

“With tickets offered by McDonald’s, it has become possible for marginalized neighbors to closely watch the international sporting festival and experience the once in a lifetime event,” Gangwon Governor Choi Moon-soon said during a delivery ceremony at Gangwon Provincial Office.

The company also delivered 75 Olympic tickets to injured firefighters and bereaved family members of firefighters who died while on duty, honoring those who devoted themselves to secure the safety of citizens. Free burgers or “Happy Burgers” were also delivered to support volunteer workers and army soldiers at the Olympics sites.

McDonald’s Korea Managing Director Melanie Joh (right) poses with Gangwon Province Governor Choi Moon-soon during a ticket delivery ceremony on Jan. 22 in Gangwon Province Government. (McDonald’s Korea)
McDonald’s Korea Managing Director Melanie Joh (right) poses with Gangwon Province Governor Choi Moon-soon during a ticket delivery ceremony on Jan. 22 in Gangwon Province Government. (McDonald’s Korea)

“We wanted to give back what we have received over the past 30 years. We will do our best for the success of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics and Paralympics,” said Melanie Joh, Managing Director of McDonald’s Korea.

In addition to tickets donation, McDonald’s Korea has also launched exclusive meals to celebrate the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

McDonald’s Korea launched three new menu items -- Golden Potato Burger, Golden Potato Tomato Muffin and Golden Potato Bacon Muffin.
The Golden Potato Burger consists of two beef patties, fried potatoes, white cheddar cheese and pine mushroom sauce, while the other two are breakfast items that each contain tomatoes, bacon and fried potatoes. 

All three items include potatoes to reflect a taste “reminiscent of nature in PyeongChang,” the company said.

“The newly launched items will be sold until Feb. 25 when the Olympic Games are to end. They will be added to our regular menu if they sell well,” said an official.

The Golden Potato Burger costs 5,900 won a la carte and 7,200 won as part of a set. Both muffins cost 3,100 won each and 3,900 won in a set. 

The company has also sold a Signature Korean Beef Burger for just one day on Jan. 30 to promote 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. 

Hanwoo Burger by McDonald’s Korea is special gourmet tribute for 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics (McDonald’s Korea)
Hanwoo Burger by McDonald’s Korea is special gourmet tribute for 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics (McDonald’s Korea)

The burger, which only had 10,000 available for purchase, features white and yellow cheddar cheese, deep fried potatoes, mushroom, bacon, onion and steak sauce. The burger retails for 9,900 won for just the burger and 12,300 won for a set.

“The burger was created based on a motive of Korean beef raised in PyeongChang area,” the company said, adding that a total of 10,000 burgers were sold out in just 30 minutes at some 400 stores across the country. 

To develop this unique burger, the company said it has cooperated with PyeongChang Yeongwol Jeongseon city National Livestock Cooperative Federation over the three years. 

McDonald’s Korea also allowed all purchasers to be entered into a contest, 150 first prize winners to get a ticket to a short track final while all other purchasers could win a coupon for a free burger.

By Kim Da-sol (