Lessons from the military games

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Lessons from the military games

“Why is such a mega sporting event being held in such a slow economy?” I thought as I traveled through Mungyeong Saejae mountain pass to report on the 2015 International Military Sports Council (CISM) World Games.

Held from Oct. 2 to 11, the World Games is a meaningful event for the 7,045 active-duty military personnel from 117 countries who participate.

However, I was concerned the event was merely wasting tax money. Last year, Incheon hosted the Asian Games and ended up with an enormous debt after investing 1.7 trillion won ($1.46 billion) to build a stadium. South Jeolla hosted Formula 1, but after the shortfall accumulated up to 190 billion won, it canceled the event.

But the CISM World Games learned from the failures of the Incheon Asian Games and F1: The total budget for the event is 165.3 billion won - 7.4 percent of the 2.2 trillion won for the Incheon Asian Games and 26 percent of the 619 billion won for the Gwangju Universiade. Facility costs were a mere 1.2 percent of that for the Asian Games and 5.6 percent for the Universiade. Venues for only three events out of 24 were newly constructed.

Athletes’ quarters were set up at the Korea Army Academy at Yeongcheon and the Military Academy in Goesan, and 350 campers were set up in Mungyeong. Each trailer cost 26.5 million won and rented for 10 million won each for three months. They will be sold to private customers for 16.5 million won after the games. It would have cost 80 billion won to build new apartments for visiting athletes, but the organization committee provided accommodations for 3.5 billion won.

The opening ceremony for the Military World Games cost 5.4 billion won, half of that for the Gwangju Universiade. Facilities were rented from the official associations for each sport, saving an additional 1.3 billion won, and another 250 million won was cut on the awards ceremony, with 175 female officers assisting.

According to the Korea Institute of Defense Analysis, the direct and indirect impact of the Military World Games is 1.77 trillion won. There were a few areas that could have been improved, as the athletes had to travel from various locations, and the event didn’t attract much of an audience.

Still, the Military World Games set an example for the fast-approaching 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. Pyeongchang Olympic Organization Committee Chairman Cho Yang-ho even had officials attend the Military World Games to learn good practices. Brazil, Japan and China, which will host summer and winter Olympic games in 2016, 2020 and 2022, respectively, are also promoting their events as economical. The Pyeongchang Games, whose total budget is estimated to be 13 trillion won, should take a lesson from the wisdom and efficiency demonstrated in Mungyeong.

The author is a culture and sports writer
for the JoongAng Ilbo.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 8, Page 33


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