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The world’s biggest aquatics contest kicks off today

July 12,2019
Gwangju will host one of the world’s biggest water sports competitions - the 2019 World Aquatics Championships - starting today.

This will be the first time the biennial aquatics event will be held in Korea and the third time in Asia.

The FINA Championships, an international competition featuring the world’s top athletes, will be held from July 12 to 28. The FINA Masters Championships, a competition between swimming clubs, will take place from Aug. 5 to 18. Over 2,600 athletes from 194 countries are expected to visit the southwestern part of Korea to compete, an increase from the 2,360 athletes from 182 countries who competed at the 2017 Budapest World Aquatics Championships.

The opening ceremony for the championships will be held at Kwangju Women’s University Universiade Gymnasium on Friday, starting from 8 p.m. Yet preliminary rounds for men’s and women’s 1 meter springboard diving, solo technical artistic swimming and duet technical artistic swimming will begin earlier in the day.

The closing ceremony will be held July 28 at 10:45 p.m. as events will continue late into the evening ahead of the closing ceremony. The closing ceremony will also be held at Kwangju Women’s University Universiade Gymnasium.

The 2019 World Aquatics Championships Gwangju is being held under the slogan “Dive into Peace,” which “signifies the hope to promote the values of peace for humankind in Gwangju, the guardian city of Korea’s democracy and human rights.” The slogan has also been broken down with the five letters of the word “peace” representing “people,” “environment,” “advance,” “culture” and “economy.”

Six aquatic sports - swimming, diving, high diving, open water swimming, artistic swimming and water polo - will be competed in over 76 events during the championships, while only five sports (excluding high diving) will be in contention during the Masters Championships.

Of the 76 gold medals, swimming will have the most, at 42, while there are only two medals - a men’s and women’s - available for high diving and water polo.

The six sports will take place in six different venues in the cities of Gwangju and Yeosu. Swimming and diving events will be held at Nambu University Municipal Aquatics Center, high diving will take place at the Chosun University Football Field, artistic swimming will be held at the Yeomju Gymnasium, the open water swimming event will take place at the Yeosu EXPO Ocean Park and water polo games will be played at Nambu University Football Field.

The majority of the competitions will be at the main Aquatics Center at Nambu University, as that is where swimming and diving events will be held.

The world’s biggest aquatic event, the FINA World Championships are considered one of the world’s five mega-sports events, along with the Summer and Winter Olympics, the FIFA World Cup and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championships. By hosting the World Aquatics Championships, Korea will become the fourth country - after Germany, Italy and Japan - to have hosted all five major sporting events.

Korea won its bid to host the World Championships on July 19, 2013, during FINA’s biennial General Congress. Although it’s the first time the country has hosted a FINA event, Gwangju isn’t completely new to the world of international sporting contests. Back in 2015, Gwangju hosted the Summer Universiade aquatics events - the World Championships will be held in the same venues.

The FINA World Championships was first held in 1973 in Belgrade in the former Yugoslavia and from 1978 to 1998, the event was held every four years. Yet since 2001, the World Championships have been held every two years.

In the all-time medal standings, the United States has a dominant lead with a total of 586 medals, followed by China at 296 and Russia at 210. Korea has won a total of three medals throughout the FINA Championships - two golds and one bronze. At the most recent Championships, the 2017 Budapest World Aquatics Championships, Korea failed to win a medal.

Tickets for the championships event went on sale online in January, with prices ranging from 10,000 won ($8.91) to 150,000 won. Tickets for some events are still available through the website https://tickets.gwangju2019.com/en/. Tickets are not required for Masters Championships events.

BY KANG YOO-RIM [kang.yoorim@joongang.co.kr]


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