중앙데일리

The pursuit of sporting events wastes money

Feb 28,2007
When the Olympics came to Seoul in 1988, it was great. The schools were given days off to fill the stadiums. I was in middle school and watched a couple of the events, courtesy of the Roh Tae-woo administration. The president was still referred to as “gakha,” the highest honorific someone can be called in the Korean language. The Olympics were not only a culmination of what the South had achieved economically since the Korean War, but also a showcase for the free world that democracy was still better than communism.
Some 20 years later, Korea is making bid after bid to host international sports events. Pyeongychang wants the 2014 Winter Olympics, Incheon covets the 2014 Asian Games and Daegu is convinced it must host the biennial World Athletics Championships in 2011. The motive is money.
The logic is clear. As infrastructure is built to host the events, it creates jobs and promotes sports that still are far behind professional sports such as baseball in popularity. The city of Daegu, for example, has vowed to introduce classes promoting track and field sports in their elementary schools.
But anybody who tries to imagine that hosting the events will lift the local economy and groom a long-awaited sprinting star that the country has never had is dreaming.
After inspecting Brisbane, another bidder for the championship, Vice President Helmut Digel of the International Association of Athletics Federations, pointed out that the Australian city’s strength was a passion for sports that would guarantee a “sold out championship.” His comments hit the nail on the head and also slashed Daegu’s Achilles heel.
I have been to zero field and track events in my entire life here. Zero. Perhaps more people will follow the championships since the event would be held here, but to fill a stadium? With the military dictatorships gone, that chance is very slim. At the most, it will be the Daegu citizens and their families moving from event to event, trying to project a place flowing with track and field mania. Let’s face the truth. Track and field never will be popular.
How about Pyeongychang? Does the country need additional facilities when ski resorts in the country are having trouble attracting customers?
Ski jump athletes need practice facilities, and so do bobsled athletes. But the country won’t give it to them unless it is given the right to host an international sporting event. How sad. After the 2002 World Cup, state-of-the-art stadiums around the country went into hibernation. I am just afraid that that will happen to all the new facilities in the pipeline.
Provinces and the central government are willing to spend on facilities and on the necessary infrastructure. I just wish athletes of unpopular sports would receive the same kind of support and money governments are willing to shell out for hosting these events.
Other than the bragging rights, I don’t see much benefit from hosting international events in sports competitions that are not popular here. I would love to see the same efforts in supporting these athletes financially and the establishment of sports programs that can groom national heroes.


by Brian Lee Staff Writerafricanu@joongang.co.kr



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