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[NOTEBOOK]Support Kim Un-yong's IOC Bid

Non-white sports stars are adored for vaulting barriers, but off-field achievers are ignored

Apr 13,2001
Tiger Woods has claimed the trophy in the Masters tournament in the United States. Although no Korean players competed in that tournament, many Korean viewers stayed up until late at night to watch the tournament on television, and the Korean press gave his victory extensive coverage - so much so that some readers even thought his achievement was given too much space. But it is understandable, given that Mr. Woods is the most masterful golfer in the sport's history, achieving the unprecedented feat of holding the title in all four of golf's major professional championships simultaneously.

Why are people so enthusiastic about Tiger? First, there is his talent, which seems almost superhuman. He is strong across the range of golf skills: the drive, iron shot, chip shot and putting. He also possesses a composure that seems beyond his years. His skills and personality alone make him worthy of the title of world's best golfer.

But Tiger's greatness shines even brighter when considered in the light that he has risen to the top of a sports dominated by white players. Augusta National Golf Club, where the U.S. Masters was held, is notorious for its exclusion of non-white players. It is managed under a membership system and has just one black member. Tiger's victory becomes truly sensational and symbolic in this context.

It is against this backdrop that Koreans' jubilation over the stunning careers of Pak Se-ri and Park Chan-ho can be understood. It was something to celebrate indeed when Ms. Pak, a young Korean golfer who decisively advanced through the U.S. professional golf tours, rose to the top. Koreans cheered - not only for her talent, but also because she broke down the barriers to become a world-class player.

It would be an exaggeration to describe Park Chan-ho as the best baseball player in the world. But still, it is worth sacrificing morning sleep to watch him strike out some of the world's top baseball players. He has advanced into the Major Leagues, which had been considered difficult for Koreans to accomplish.

Being the best in the world is worthy of congratulations. Moreover, when a person overcomes all sorts of barriers and hardship to get there, the achievement is twice as impressive.

Another Korean is waiting to make his mark in the global arena. It is possible that a Korean may become president of the International Olympic Committee, a council of towering stature in world sports.

Kim Un-yong, president of the Korea Sports Council and executive board member of IOC, is making a bid for the IOC presidency. It is exciting to see a Korean aspiring to be the president of IOC. All presidents of the IOC have been Europeans or Americans, starting from Pierre De Coubertin the "creator of the modern Olympic Games" to Juan Antonio Samaranch, who currently holds the post and will be stepping down in July.

Considered one of the committee's power brokers, Mr. Kim is the first Korean, Asian and non-white to seek the presidency of the IOC. The attempt alone is worthy of celebration.

Reports from overseas are predicting with increasing confidence that Mr. Kim will win the election. Strangely, however, Koreans seem cool to his bid. But Mr. Kim was overflowing with self-confidence when he declared his candidacy for the presidency in Monte Carlo. His victory seems assured, notwithstanding some extraordinary events. Mr. Kim's past accomplishments have been nearly solo acts. In Korea there is a tendency to undervalue his hard-won success.

From now on, Koreans should support his challenge. A Korean IOC president may enhance our national status even more than hosting the soccer World Cup or the Olympic games. It would not only be a glory for Kim Un-yong but also a source of national pride and a milestone for all Asians.



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The writer is the deputy sports editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.


by Sohn Jang-hwan




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