Gwangju can’t afford to host aquatics event

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Gwangju can’t afford to host aquatics event

Gwangju’s ability to host the 2019 FINA World Aquatics Championships is looking shaky after the central government said it will not cover any costs.

The Gwangju Metropolitan Government is in a real fix since the budget for the competition has jumped from the original estimate of 114.9 billion won ($99.6 million) to 185 billion won.

The Ministry of Strategy and Finance is steadfast that it will not allocate any part of the budget to support the aquatic games.

It has blamed forged documents used to win the competition to host the championship in 2013.

In July 2013, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism accused Gwangju’s city government of forging documents that pledged financial support from the central government to the city for the games.

The Culture Ministry alleged that Gwangju Mayor Kang Un-tae and other city officials had been involved in forging the signatures of former Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik and former Culture Minister Choi Gwang-sik to win the competition to host the World Aquatics Championships in 2019.

The revelation came only hours before FINA announced that Gwangju’s bid had won.

The Gwangju city government maintained that the forged signatures were the result of a staff member’s mistake and that it had replaced the forged letter with a proper one in June.

The central government vowed not to offer any financial assistance for the games.

Two Gwangju city officials, including Kim Yoon-seok, director of the bidding committee, were indicted with detention by the Gwangju District Prosecutors’ Office that September. But prosecutors did not charge Mayor Kang because of a lack of evidence that he had ordered the forgeries.

Gwangju hosted the 2015 Summer Universiade in July.

The city government’s budget for the aquatic championships skyrocketed to nearly 200 billion won after plans to use the Nambu University International Aquatics Center, which was used for the 2015 Summer Universiade, as its main arena for FINA fell through.

It will have to build new swimming facilities for the upcoming competition, and the construction would cost around 55 billion won.

The World Aquatics Championships event was launched in 1973 and is now held every two years. This year, it was held in Kazan, Russia, and the 2017 championships will be held in Budapest.

Rep. Park Hae-ja, a Gwangju native, of the main opposition party New Politics Alliance for Democracy said at a National Assembly budgetary meeting on Monday that when asked why the 2019 aquatic championships was not reflected in the national budget, Second Vice Finance Minister Song Eon-seog had replied the government cannot provide support because of the forged documents.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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