No more reckless bidsThe city of Gwangju won the bid to host the 2019 World Aquatics Championship, but it brought more shame to the country than honor. Just hours before the Federation Internationale de Natation announced the host city, the Seoul government revealed that Gwangju officials had lied to win the bid by fabricating financial pledges from the central government.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism claimed that the city government forged signatures from the prime minister and culture and sports minister in a document guaranteeing a government financial pledge of $100 million to help sponsor the championship.
However, the government sat on this information and released it just before the announcement of the winner in Barcelona, Spain. It also said that it will take criminal action against Gwangju Mayor Kang Un-tae and won’t offer any state financing to support the games. Kang protested that the whole fiasco stems from a political vendetta.
What the Gwangju city administration has done is a criminal act. No matter how desperately it wanted to host the championships, it should not have taken this path. How can we believe in our government and state guarantees if local administrations can forge documents so easily?
The city blames low-level government officials for mishandling the documents. But who would believe that a low-ranking city government official would dare fabricate papers to submit to an international organization?
The fiasco underscores how backward our local governments still are. They bid for events they can’t afford, naively depending on the government to come up with the finances.
Incheon nearly bankrupted itself while preparing to host the 2014 Asian Games. It initially asked the government to shoulder 30 percent of the estimated cost of 1.59 trillion won ($1.42 billion), but now it’s demanding an extra 630 billion won, which would raise total public coverage to 70 percent.
South Jeolla Province has been sitting on a debt of over 100 billion own since it built its F1 Grand Prix track three years ago. The unbridled rivalry among local governments to host international events has worsened the living standard of their residents and ties with the central government.
Cities and provinces are mired in debt due to reckless loans. The total debt of local governments reached 9 trillion won as of the end of April.
Without austerity efforts, a Korean city or province could end up bankrupt. The central government should set strong guidelines in approving local governments’ bids for international events.