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Daegu’s do-it-alone success story

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Mar 29,2007
Mayor Kim Bum-il, third from left, watches as Lamine Diack, president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, officially proclaims Daegu the host of the 2011 World Championships in Athletics. [NEWSIS]
DAEGU ― In 2005, when this city declared its intention to host the World Championships in Athletics in 2011, local officials were mostly given the cold shoulder. The central government at first just ignored the idea.
That Daegu was selected Tuesday to host the event is a small miracle in itself. When even full-fledged government support might not be enough to bring home major sporting events, Daegu ran this bid on its own and now will host one of the world’s biggest competitions.
The last World Championships in Athletics, held in Helsinki, Finland in 2005, drew 6.5 billion television viewers over their nine days. But when Daegu’s bid committee went to work in June 2005, hardly anyone in town had even heard of the event. And the budget was so tight, the 28-member committee ― most of them local civil servants ― could not hire experts to assist them.
“We asked the central government several times for help in personnel, funding and corporate sponsors,” said Shin Jeom-sik, chairman of the bid committee. “But the government was not very interested because the championship is only for track and field [and not a comprehensive competition like the Olympics].”
Apparently, the brush-off from Seoul just made the Daegu officials more determined.
In 2005 and 2006, the city hosted its own international event, the Daegu Athletics Meeting. To help raise the city’s recognition level, Daegu invited two high-profile athletes: Russia’s Yelena Isinbayeva, the world record holder in the women’s pole vault, and Chinese sprinter Liu Xiang, who has the world’s fastest time in the men’s 110-meter hurdles.
Behind the scenes, the committee members got to work, producing official presentation materials on their own with no outside assistance. Some paid visits to previous hosts, such as Berlin and Helsinki, looking for insights.
Still, Daegu had to show the International Association of Athletics Federations some money. When they had trouble finding corporate sponsors, they invited Cho Kun-ho, vice chairman of the Federation of Korean Industries, to be on hand during the on-site inspection in February. They needed to demonstrate that Korea’s largest business lobby and its big-time corporate members ― was interested in Daegu’s bid.
“The Daegu example proves that a regional government can do great things,” said Yeungnam University sociology professor, Baek Seung-dae. “This might fuel competition among regional authorities across the nation, and contribute to more balanced development.”


By Hong Gweon-sam JoongAng Ilbo [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]


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