The Mass Games
and Pyongyang's
May Day Stadium

From the Archives // An introduction to North Korea's Mass Games held between 2002-2013.

The first Mass Games were held in North Korea in 1946, although the 'Mass Gymnastics Production Company' responsible for the event was not formed until 1971.

The Mass Games originally were performed in the 60,000 seat Kim Il Sung Stadium built in 1982 and it was only when the 'Arirang Mass Games' started in 2002 that the May Day Stadium was seen as the permanent venue for the event. See a video about the history and philosophy behind the Mass Games here.

The stadium was built in 1980 with a 150,000 capacity which is currently a world record – though physically it's not the biggest stadium as is proved when you find yourself sitting in rather close quarters to your neighbour!

For our documentary film The Game of Their Lives (2002) we filmed football teams who were still playing football matches in the stadium (they were later moved to Kim Il Sung stadium for their matches) and, of course, the gymnasts starring in A State of Mind (2004). We filmed her practice outside the May Day stadium and watched her perform there in 2008.

Filming footballers for the documentary The Game of Their Lives

We have had amazing access to the May Day Stadium for filming and, of course, the preparations for the ‘largest picture in the world’ made up of around 20,000 school kids. The backdrop was painted onto small pieces of card, which was then transformed into a page on the books the kids use to depict each scene. Despite the Arirang Mass Games not being held since 2013, schoolchildren can still be seen around the capital practicing with cards for smaller event. The art is being kept alive!

Mass Games

Following its most recent renovation post-2014, the May Day Stadium has mostly held sporting events, including football, track and field events, and the Pyongyang Marathon in 2016.

The newly renovated May Day Stadium - complete with running track and football pitch.

Koryo Tours run a number of tours visiting the May Day Stadium, including our May Day Tours: the May Day Short Tour, the May Day Tour, and the May Day and East Coast Tour.

In 2018, the Mass Games in North Korea made a tremendous come-back after 5 years. Keep an eye on our North Korea Mass Games page for the most up-to-date information on the Mass Games, and how you can see them!

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