Towels can’t clean up Incheon mess

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Towels can’t clean up Incheon mess

On Sunday, 20 volunteer workers of the Incheon Asian Games organizing committee were dragging towels across the track in order to dry the rain-soaked lanes at Asiad Main Stadium.

This despite the widespread use of Aquasoaker rolling machines at international competitions since 2009.

“We don’t need the machines for the Asian Games,” said an official of the organizing committee.

Flaws in the Asian Games have arisen since the opening ceremony Sept. 19, derided by critics as a festival of Hallyu celebrities. Actress Lee Young-ae was chosen to light the torch, which went out in a day and had to be reignited.

The Munhak Stadium area where baseball and soccer games were held suffered from traffic jams on Sunday. The organizing committee failed to stagger the start times for the two matches that Korean teams participated in, causing many spectators to be late.

Changing leadership in Incheon has been cited as the main cause of the problems. There have been three mayors since the city was awarded the Games seven years ago, complicating matters for the organizing committee.

After Ahn Sang-soo, the former mayor, secured the Asian Games, Song Young-gil took office in 2010 and assumed oversight of the preparations. Yet it is current Mayor Yoo Jeong-bok who is being criticized for management lapses that have plagued the Games.

Dissonance between the organizing committee and the Incheon city government also was a problem. Municipal officials and temporary workers of the organizing committee have been at loggerheads several times in the period leading up to the Asian Games.

The budget for the Asian Games was 2.5 trillion won ($2.4 billion), 80 percent of which went to facilities. Despite the existence of Munhak Stadium, the city government built another main stadium near Cheongna, a new business town, to woo voters.

The organizing committee acknowledged on Sept. 22 that salmonella had been found in lunch boxes that were distributed to athletes. The boxes were taken away, and some athletes said they had to compete hungry.

Management of volunteer workers has drawn criticisms. Unprepared volunteer guides in stadiums confused both teams and members of the news media. Some personnel, including interpreters, quit before the Asian Games began saying, “The deals the organizing committee offered at the beginning turned out to be different.”

Except for baseball, soccer and swimming, in which Park Tae-hwan participated, not even a tenth of bleachers have been filled.

The closing ceremony on Sunday is expected to be unrehearsed because track and field events are scheduled to be held in the main stadium on Saturday.

And not even half of the tickets for the ceremony have been sold.



BY KIM SIK, CHOI MO-RAN [ypc3c@joongang.co.kr]

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