A stepping stone for athleticsThe 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu came to an end after nine days of cutthroat competition among athletes from around the world. The largest-ever championship of its kind was nothing short of a sports drama full of suspense and thrills, despite some weak performances - and unexpected disqualifications - of world-famous athletes.
For Koreans in particular, it was a rare opportunity to watch at home the world’s top athletes compete. It also provided us with the chance to see that athletics are an attractive way to spend time. The international event let Korea, which lags far behind other athletic powers, open its eyes to the wonderful world of the sports.
There were not as many world records set as we expected. Yet that does not tarnish the magnificence and glory of the event as it was a global sports festival that allowed fans from around the world to applaud all the athletes, who displayed incomparable sportsmanship and incredible performances. The unexpected fall from grace of former champions and gold medal hopefuls, above all, made the championships even more exciting. The amazing sprint of Oscar Pistorius, who qualified for the 400-meter semifinals on two prosthetic legs, has also left a deep impression on the hearts of audiences.
Although the administration of the event was at times less than professional, Daegu citizens’ enthusiastic participation contributed to the successful staging of the games. However, the fly in the ointment was the poor performance of Korean athletes. Our initial hope of reaching the goal of “10-10” - having athletes place in the top 10 in 10 events - was shattered again, with few athletes achieving the goal. As the host of the championships, we demonstrated a lackluster performance.
Under the circumstances, it is urgent that we uncover the fundamental problems in Korean athletics. The top priority should, of course, be the creation of long-term strategies for elevating athletics, including systematic ways to recruit qualified athletes and train them through scientific methods, not to mention aggressive efforts by the government to assist them.
It all starts with revitalizing our defective physical education systems at schools, which has attributed to the abnormal situation in which students’ physical strength does not match their bigger frames. Only when the championships can help expand the base of our athletics programs will such an event be recorded as a genuine success.