Is this phrase interchangeable with 向かって？
What's the difference?
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Generally speaking, there's difference between 向ける (> 向けて) and 向かう (> 向かって), where the former is transitive "head something for"/"have something face to (somewhere)" and the latter is intransitive "head yourself for"/"face to (somewhere)".
But you can use them with abstract goal (i.e. not actual place). In this case, they have a little more nuances:
A に向けて V depicts you set something to the direction of A, but yourself isn't necessarily facing to the same direction. Imagine a locomotive; you work hard shoveling coal into the boiler, but you're not the one runs. The train runs and brings you to the destination.
A に向かって V, however, always implies your body "moves". You have to make yourself "go forward" by V-ing in order to reach the goal.
Thus, A に向かって V requires something directly leads to A as V, while A に向けて V accepts any activity helpful to A.
× 会議に向かって休息をとる (resting helps you, but doesn't take you to conference)
runs (as preparation) for the Olympic games
(sounds rhetoric) runs "towards" (in order to get qualification of?) the Olympics
I know that オリンピックに向けて is the better choice, but it's hard to explain why...
実用日本語表現辞典 explicitly explains this usage (link):
When the target is an intangible event such as オリンピック, 納品日 and 発表, you will hear ～に向けて more often, while ～に向かって would not be entirely wrong. (向ける is usually transitive. I'm not sure, but maybe something like 気持ちを/意識を is omitted?)
But when the target is a physical place or a tangible object, whichever is fine.
- 大阪に向けて飛び立つ ／ 大阪に向かって飛び立つ
- 的に向けて銃を撃つ ／ 的に向かって銃を撃つ
As a follow-up answer to this question,
I found the following research paper from 東京が国語大学 (TUFS) which goes into great detail about the differences in usage for 「に向けて」,「に向かって」and「を目指して」:
If someone could put this info into digest form in English, that would be great.