In Gwangju, big sports doesn’t require budget-busting
To prepare for last year’s Asian Games, the city spent 1.7 trillion won ($1.5 billion) to build stadiums and other facilities. Now the bills are coming in.
The Gwangju Summer Universiade Organizing Committee wanted to avoid such a spending spree, so for these collegiate games, the committee has been more frugal.
“We will come in about 200 billion won ($190 million) under budget and make this Universiade the most practical international event,” Gwangju’s mayor and organizing group head Yoon Jang-hyun said Tuesday.
One of the the Gwangju Summer Universiade’s mottos is “Eco-versiade,” and “eco” could also mean “economizing.” The committee says the cost of new facilities was originally estimated at 468.3 billion won, but that it has already saved about 134.5 billion won. The operating costs are estimated at 283.4 billion won, 65.4 billion won lower than originally budgeted and only 59 percent of spending for that purpose at the Incheon Asian Games.
There are 69 venues for the Summer Universiade, including 32 training facilities. Only three are completely new: the Nambu University International Aquatics Center, the Gwangju International Archery Center and the Kwangju Women’s University Universiade Gymnasium. Other facilities were spruced up or expanded to meet international standards. The committee also borrowed materials from elsewhere.
The event’s main stadium is the Gwangju World Cup Stadium, built for the 2002 FIFA World Cup. The Jinwol International Tennis Court was expanded to provide more seating, and organizers decided to use an existing 30-year-old site, the Hwajeong Jookong Apartment Complex, to build housing for athletes. The apartments will be sold after the games conclude.
“Eco” also means environmentally friendly at the Universiade. The Kwangju Women’s University Universiade Gymnasium, where rhythmic gymnast Son Yeon-jae is competing this weekend, gets 26 percent of its energy from geothermal heat and solar power. The Nambu University International Aquatics Center also uses geothermal heat to generate power.
The organizers have also made efforts to ease standards set by the games’ international overlords that appeared to the local committee to be excessively expensive. The committee and the International University Sports Federation held intense negotiations to revive the federation’s standards.
There has been a push to use temporary equipment and facilities where possible. For example, seating for officials at the volleyball, basketball and taekwondo gymnasiums are folding chairs. The athletes’ waiting rooms, resting lounges and warm-up lounges are large tents that can be removed after the event. Lighting has not been installed at the football practice fields because no practice is held at night.
The recycling extends wherever possible. The winners’ podiums at the Summer Universiade is from the Incheon Asian Games. The organizing committee received a donation of 153 such podiums from the Incheon Asian Games organizers. Sixty-seven medal boxes and 25 medal bags are also leftovers from Incheon.
At this Universiade, medal winners will not receive flowers; instead, they are handed a doll in the likeness of Nuribi, the games’ mascot. The organizers said flowers are usually thrown away after the ceremonies.
“We saved about 800 million won in just the awards ceremonies category,” said Song Soon-nam, who is in charge of that aspect of the Universiade. “The recycled items used in this Universiade will be used again; they will be delivered to the organizers of the World Military Games to be held in October in Mungyeong.”
Gwangju residents seem to be feeling good about the cost-effective Universiade. The Gwangju Council for Local Agenda 21, a band of 69 civic groups, local companies and government institutions, approvingly called this Universiade an “environmentally-frienly event.”
The committee may have overshot in a few areas, though. To cut labor costs, a large number of volunteers have been mobilized ? too many, in the eyes of some of them who complain they are surplus to the event’s needs. And some athletes have complained about their lodgings. The mattresses at the Athlete Village are still covered with vinyl; they are rented, and athletes have to sleep on them that way. Athletes who tear off the protective layer to get a better night’s sleep can be fined.
BY CHOI KYEONG-HO, PARK RIN AND KIM WON [firstname.lastname@example.org]