Competing for the 2036 Olympiad

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Competing for the 2036 Olympiad

Kim Ki-han
The author is a professor of physical education at Seoul National University.

National Olympic Committees (NOC) from 206 member countries of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) gathered for a two-day annual general assembly of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) at Coex, Seoul, from Wednesday. The annual event brings around 1,000 people — including IOC President Thomas Bach, heads of 206 NOCs aligned with the association, ANOC executives, IOC members, and representatives of International Sports Federation (IFs) — to discuss sports issues. The 26th assembly this year is being held for the third time in South Korea. The last two times were in 1986 and 2006. It will select a president and senior vice-president with four-year terms and 32 members of an executive council.

In a recent survey of 1,000 residents of Seoul, 72.8 percent supported another hosting of the Olympic Games by the city. Yoo Seung-min, an IOC member and head of the Korea Table Tennis Association, has been pitching for Seoul to host the 2036 Summer Olympics, which would be Korea’s third hosting of an IOC sports event after the 1988 Seoul Olympics and 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games.

The ANOC General Assembly in Seoul discusses the future of the Olympics, whether Korea should host another Olympics and, if so, what strategies are needed.

The Moon Jae-in administration campaigned for a co-hosting of the 2032 Summer Olympics by South and North Korea following the inter-Korean summit and joint declaration in Pyongyang on Sept. 19, 2018. But the games went to Brisbane, Australia, as its vision complied better with the IOC’s Olympic values than the political message of the Korean co-sponsorship.

The IOC has championed the Olympic tradition for more than a century since the first modern Olympic event in 1896. In 2014, it underscored the importance of a sustainable Olympic legacy through its Olympic Agenda 2020 to meet the growing requirements for environmental protection and sustainability of the Games. In 2021, the IOC unveiled “Olympic Agenda 2020 + 5” to include the guidelines of strengthening the role of sport to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

The Olympic motto was made up of three Latin words: Citius (Faster), Altius (Higher), and Fortius (Stronger) since the founding of the IOC in Paris in 1894. In 2021, the IOC added the word Communiter (together) to the motto to augment the value of solidarity for the global community to reach higher and greater together. The new motto represents how mankind should ultimately seek union and harmony, not competition.

In 2019, the IOC changed the way it selected Olympic city hosts, which used to be a direct vote by 100 IOC members. Now, the selection of a host city is made by the Future Host Commission, where more or less 10 member countries talk with candidate cities on a regular basis. The new methodology was aimed at cutting unnecessary costs, fending off excessive lobbying and raising transparency in the decision-making.

The IOC pursues an eco-friendly, low-cost and sustainable Olympics legacy, as well as seeking empathy with the younger generation, global harmony and engagement, and UN sustainable development goals. The Olympic event honoring the new IOC rules can contribute to the progress of global citizenship and peace. South Korea could be well qualified to bid for the Games.

An Olympics should be neither a boon nor doom. The outcome will depend on how Korea will prepare for the Games. Korea must start drawing up a winning strategy. First, the country must envision the sports event as an international and benevolent celebration of global prosperity and peace by breaking out of nationalist and ideological sentiments in line with the original vision of Olympism by IOC founder Pierre de Coubertin.

Second, a command center should be established under President Yoon Suk-yeol to coordinate differing interests and support sports diplomacy systematically. Failed Olympics bids mostly derived from the unavoidable clashes with interest groups from the start.

Third, hosting of the Olympics must be approached from the sports perspective, not a political one. The Games are basically a sporting event. The IOC cherishes its support of athletes above all else. South Korea must demonstrate mature citizenship to bring home the 2036 Olympiad a century after Sohn Kee-chung became the first ethnic Korean to win a gold in the marathon at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.

Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.
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