Korea to host more major sports events while Lee is in office

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Korea to host more major sports events while Lee is in office

From the Asian Games and the Summer Olympics to the FIFA World Cup, Korea has never shied away from hosting international sporting events.
And during the upcoming Lee Myung-bak administration, the country can add one more marquee event to the list ― the 2011 World Championships in Athletics in the southern city of Daegu.
Commonly called the World Track and Field Championships, the competition is organized by the International Association of Athletics Federations. The Daegu event, to be held Aug. 27 to Sept. 4 2011, will be the 13th edition of this biennial competition.
Daegu was selected as the host city in March, and the organizing committee started working in mid-October. Moon Dong-hoo, the committee’s vice president and secretary general, said the year 2008 will be all about preparation for the 2011 event.
“Right now we are trying to figure out our budget and logistics,” Moon said. “Once we do that, we’ll get to the bottom of things on how to employ our personnel and how to secure our resources.”
According to committee public relations officer Jeong Hee-dae, Daegu is also working on building new sites and improving existing ones. The plan includes construction of the players’ village and accommodations for journalists, plus a practice venue for events such as the shot put and javelin.
Daegu, which has hosted the Daegu Athletics Meeting since 2005, will get plenty of chances to host athletic events of varying size, including a marathon in April and the fourth Athletics Meeting in September. The Daegu meet has hosted some world- class athletes, including China’s Liu Xiang, the world record holder in the men’s 110-meter hurdles, and Russian Yelena Isinbayeva, who holds the world record in the women’s pole vault.
Another part of preparation is watching what others are doing. Berlin is the host of the 2009 world championships, and Moon said he will send a committee to observe how the German capital is preparing for its big event.
“Daegu was among the sites for the 2002 World Cup and also hosted the 2003 World University Games,” Moon said. “This city has enough experience in hosting international athletic events. Plus, the Daegu public has been fully behind us since we began bidding for the world championships. I’m confident they will continue to support the championship when it finally arrives.”
Another key for the host city in 2011 will be to ensure Korean athletes perform well. Aside from the marathon, Korea has never won an Olympic medal in track and field and has been shut out in world championships as well.
According to Moon, the Korea Athletic Federation is running a nationwide training program where it selects elite young athletes and provides them with overseas training. An athletics academy is also in the works.
Will there be Korean medal winners by 2011? Moon couldn’t guarantee that, but he said investing in athletics is more than just about trying to win in 2011.
“It won’t be easy to nurture athletes, but we can’t give up on that,” Moon said. “It’s like in business: you have to invest to see fruit. Athletics is the foundation of all other sports.
“It may take years, but it’s important to start now,” he continued. “Ten years ago no one expected to see world stars in swimming and figure skating like Park Tae-hwan and Kim Yu-na. Who knows? Perhaps we’ll get a return on investments in 2011.”
Whether Koreans win medals in Daegu or not, the world championship will still make a huge impact on the city.
“Billions of people around the globe will be watching the competition on television, and it will help raise Daegu’s profile,” Moon said. “The local economy will also receive a boost.”
Daegu’s bid was significant because it won the event with very little support from the central government. Helmut Digel, vice president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, the world governing body for track and field, said the organization was impressed with the passion that Daegu citizens displayed during the association’s inspection in February.
“A successful world championship will instill a sense of civic pride in Daegu citizens,” Moon said. “They will be able to enjoy the event as both hosts and spectators. Hopefully, the world championship will turn Daegu into the athletics hub of Asia.”
There are other events on the horizon that could solidify Korea’s place on the global sporting map. In 2014, the western port city of Incheon will host the Asian Games, the country’s third Asiad. Seoul hosted the first Asiad in 1986 and Busan followed in 2002. Starting in 2010, Yeongam, South Jeolla, will host a Formula 1 Grand Prix auto race for seven years. It is the nation’s first F1 event.
The east coast resort town of Pyeongchang in Gangwon Province came up short in its bid to host the 2010 and the 2014 Winter Olympics. But it has already announced its intention to enter the bidding for a third time.
The bid requires approval from the Korean government and Korean Olympic Committee. That decision will be reached in the summer of 2009, according to the Gangwon provincial government. The International Olympic Committee members will vote for the host city in 2011.
So far, Tromso, Norway and Munich, Germany have officially entered the race to host the 2018 Winter Olympics.

By Yoo Jee-ho Staff Reporter [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]
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