Daegu strives to become Asia’s athletics center

2010-11-11 18:24

In recent years, South Korea has become a world sporting powerhouse. Having successfully staged the 1988 Olympics and the 2002 World Cup, this year Korea held its inaugural Formula One Grand Prix.

To that list, one can now add Daegu’s hosting of the World Championship in Athletics next year.

Daegu, some 300 kilometers south of Seoul, is preparing for the 13th IAAF World Championships slated for Aug. 27-Sept. 4 in 2011. 

The biannual event is one of the world’s top three sporting events along with the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup. More than 3,500 athletes and officials, including thee-time Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt and Women’s pole vault record-holder Yelena Isinbayeva, will be competing at Korea’s first ever World Championships. 
Usain Bolt of Jamaica  (MCT)

The Local Organizing Committee said that by hosting the mega-event it hopes to create an athletics boom in Korea.

Korean athletes, having failed to make an impact in top level competitions for a long time, lag far behind other leading countries. But the LOC claims that the nine-day event will be a turning point for Korean athletes.

“I believe the 2011 World Championships will serve as a stepping stone to improve Korean athletes’ competitiveness,” said an official from the LOC.

Last year, the Korea Association of Athletics Federations announced several projects, including hiring some foreign coaches, increasing funds and also building a new indoor stadium, to boost the level of competitiveness of local athletes.

“We have pulled together a team of 100 nation’s most prominent athletes for the Daegu World Championships,” said a spokesman from the KAAF.

“IAAF World Championships is a global celebration of athletics. And we hope our athletes can break into top positions at the home event next year,” Oh Dong-jin, the president of KAAF said earlier.

The local governing body’s effort seems to already be working. Teenage sprinter Kim Goo-young broke the country’s 31-year-old men’s 100m record by clocking in at 10.23 sec, 0.08 seconds faster than the previous record, at the National Athletics in Daegu in June.

“This is just the beginning of a new era for Korean athletics. We’re expecting more records from the 2011 Daegu World Championships,” the spokesman added.

Much preparation is underway for the country’s biggest athletics event. The 2011 IAAF World Championships will be held at the Daegu Stadium, the country’s largest stadium which can hold 66,000 spectators.

Built in 2001, the stadium served as one of the main venues for the 2002 World Cup and also 2003 Universiade Games.

In May, the local organizing committee replaced two large video screens at the stadium with High Definition LED screens. The installation of the new screens is not only to increase spectator visibility but also to ensure the reliability of event coverage during the Championships, according to the LOC.

A new athletes’ village for next year’s event is also nearing completion. The village, located close to the Daegu stadium, will feature 2028 rooms that can accommodate more than 3,500 athletes and officials. With the aim of hosting a “Green World Championship,” it will also use a solar energy system for heating and power, the LOC noted.
An artistic rendering of the Athletes Village (Photo by the LOC committee)

Earlier this year, the local organizer also unveiled its official mascot Sarbi that portrays the image of a “Sapsal-gae” an indigenous dog breed from Daegu.

“I think its warm colors and happy images will appeal to youth, and help activate the world’s excitement about the Daegu 2011 event,” IAAF President Lamine Dlack was quoted as saying by the LOC.

Daegu, the country’s third largest city with a population of more than 2.5 million, has already proved its capability to host large athletic events by successfully hosting its annual Pre-Championships event.

Started in 2005, as part of a plan to promote the city’s bid for the IAAF World Championships, the country’s only international athletics event has been growing steadily. And, from this year, it has been adopted as one of the 14 races of the IAAF league series.

In particular, this year’s event, held on May 19, featured the world’s top athletes, including Jamaica’s Usain Bolt, who holds both the 100 m, and 200 m world records with 9.58 sec and 19.19 sec respectively.

Many star athletes competed in 16 events and produced eight new records at the 2010 Daegu Pre-Championships. It was broadcasted live in 13 countries to more than 160 million households, three times higher than last year, according to the International Electrotechnical Commission, an official media distributor of IAAF. 
Athletes compete during the 2010 Daegu Pre-Championships on May 19.  (Photo by the LOC committee)

“It is clearly evident that the Daegu Pre-championships is now becoming a popular sporting event. And now the expectations for the next year’s IAAF World Championships is higher than ever,” said the spokesman of the LOC committee.

The world reigning champion Bolt already expressed his wish to compete at the Daegu Championships next year.

“Training has started and the good news is I’m 100 percent healthy,” Bolt wrote on his blog on the IAAF website.

“I’m really enjoying training at the moment. I’m looking forward to defending my 100 and 200 meters titles in Korea and so I know the importance of putting in the work required.”

“We’ve been working hard to make next year’s championships a near-perfect event, and by far the best ever event in IAAF history,” said Cho Hae-nyoung, the co-president of the Daegu LOC.

He added that the global athletics competition would promote Daegu as the “Mecca of Asian athletics.”

“I believe that it will provide us an ideal platform to enhance athletics on the Asian circuit.”

The 13th IAAF World Championships will take place at the Daegu Stadium from the opening ceremony on Aug. 27 to Sept. 4 in 2011. The tickets for the Championships, priced from 20,000 won for ordinary seating to 150,000 for premium seats, are available at www.daegu2011.org.

By Oh Kyu-wook  (596story@heraldcorp.com)
print close