Overhaul local sports planning

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Overhaul local sports planning

The international sports championships that Korean municipal governments vie to host are increasingly being tainted with disgraceful irregularities found in their preparations. Following the Gwangju Metropolitan Government’s fabrication of documents - using a forged signature of the prime minister in the city’s successful bid for the 2019 FINA World Aquatics Championships - now Daegu Metropolitan City turns out to have been ill-prepared for the International Indoor Athletics championships, slated for next March.

The Daegu Athletics Promotion Center, in which the central and local governments jointly invested 73.2 billion won ($65.79 million), cannot be opened, even though it was completed two months ago. To host internationally recognized competitions, a venue needs to have a warm-up zone consisting of four 150-meter curved lanes and six 50-meter straight lanes. But the indoor stadium has only straight lanes. As a result, Daegu is in danger of losing the chance to host the international athletics event. The city is considering building a separate warm-up zone, but it would need as much as 10 billion won.

In the case of the Gwangju fiasco, the prosecution raided Mayor Kang Un-tae’s office yesterday to see if he had been aware of the forgery of the government’s written guarantee. As the prosecution’s search and seizure raid continues, followed by the summons of related officials in the scam, the city administration itself is being shaken.

The two local governments vividly show how outdated our systems are for staging international sporting events. Daegu promised to construct the indoor athletics center in its bid to host the 2011 IAAF World Championships. Despite the apparent problems in the design of the facility, however, the city government was not able to spot the flaws during the inspection process, blinded by a greedy desire to polish the city’s image while ignoring the minimum construction requirements. A bigger problem is deciding who should pay for the massive additional cost. As the central government cannot afford to grant extra money for an otherwise unnecessary construction, the financial burden should eventually be borne by citizens’ taxes.

Local governments should take full responsibility for the international sporting events they aspire to host. Local residents also must closely monitor their governments when sports facilities are being built to ensure they meet international standards. The central government, too, must come up with plans to review local governments’ indiscriminate bids for major international sports.

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