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Lee Kang-too heralds positives of sport

Promoter of ‘Sport for All’ focuses on global cooperation

Many people make exercising their top New Year’s resolution, but are often unable to follow through.

For Lee Kang-too, exercising regularly doesn’t have to involve running or going to the gym. Instead, it can be a simple activity, such as walking or climbing the stairs.

“I wear my work-out shoes all the time. So wherever I go I’m ready to go for it,” said the head of Korea Council of Sport for All, an organization which works on projects to improve the health of Koreans.

Lee was wearing a suit and tie, but was also wearing a pair of dark-grey running shoes. It was an unconventional look, but he seemed pretty happy with his fashion choices.

“I walk one hour almost every morning. And I walk as much as possible at work, so I need them,” Lee explained as he lifted his foot to reveal the air bubble in the sole of his shoe.

“You don’t necessarily need to go to the gym or something, but just move as much as possible. That is more important.”

Being active, in fact, is becoming more crucial in our modern life, according to Lee.

We are used to easy living and becoming more inactive. And the more inactive we are, the more it destroys our health, he said.

“That is why ‘Sport for All’ projects are necessary,” he added, banging the coffee table with his fist. 
Lee Kang-too, the president of TAFISA (Chung Hee-cho/The Korea Herald)
Lee Kang-too, the president of TAFISA (Chung Hee-cho/The Korea Herald)

Lee, the former chief policymaker of the Grand National Party, stressed that the idea of “Sports for All” is the basic right of people.

“I believe that an advanced country is where everyone can enjoy high quality sport facilities.”

But, as he admits, the important question is not why, but how to make it happen.

“Cooperation is the key word. We need to join together and share our experiences and knowledge,” he said, adding that that is why The Association For International Sport for All, or TAFISA was set up in 1991.

TAFISA is an international organization with more than 200 members from 132 countries, including Korea. Lee, who was appointed TAFISA president in late 2009, is currently leading the global health advisory group.

TAFISA holds global events to promote the idea of “Sport for All,” such as World Walking Day and World Sport for All Games.

The World Walking Day event, for instance, is held annually in October across the world. As the name suggests, it involves all kinds of walking events run by local organizers. Last year, it attracted more than 12 million participants from 32 countries.

In a nod to the Olympic Games, the TAFISA World Sport for All Games is held every four years. The big difference is, however, that while the elite sporting event limits the role of citizens to being spectators, the walking event actually offers people an opportunity to enjoy sports, Lee said.

“Last year was really good for us as you can see from these photos,” Lee said, pointing at the photos displayed in a glass cabinet.

In one photo, he is posing with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and in another he is with Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee.

“I’ve been working hard to cement relationships with key world players like the U.N. and IOC.”

“When I met the U.N. secretary-general, he pledged full-support for our program,” he said proudly.

Last year, as part of VIPS ― Volunteer Initiative for Peace through Sport ― TAFISA donated 2010 footballs to 11 African countries. And in May 2010, the U.N. officially recognized TAFISA’s program for Africa as a clear example of using “sport for all” as a driving force to promote education, health and peace.

To further develop the program, Lee said he was planning to hold a global forum in Africa in February and to launch an educational center in Tanzania.

“We’ve been also running programs to educate people.”

According to Lee, TAFISA has been developing its Certified Leadership Course, aimed at training and developing mangers and volunteers to promote their campaign across the world. And in early 2010, TAFISA signed a memorandum of understanding with the IOC to further develop the program.

Lee stressed that with the help of such international organizations, TAFISA is hoping to further develop more innovative activities.

“This year we’re marking our 20th anniversary, but still we need to involve more organizations, more people to make ‘Sport for All.’”

Lee, 74, claimed he is still energetic enough to continue work. “One of my wishes for the New Year is that I become more active, and do more work for TAFISA.”

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