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Volunteers gear up for Daegu Athletics Champs

Volunteers are coming out in full force at the biggest track and field event in the world to serve their native countries, hopefully developing a sense of international community and themselves.

The 2011 International Association of Athletics Federation World Championships will kick off this Saturday in Daegu with the help of the some 5,800 volunteers from various countries.
Volunteers participate in a doping control officer training workshop in preparation for the 2011 Daegu World Championships. (IAAF 2011 Daegu World Championships)
Volunteers participate in a doping control officer training workshop in preparation for the 2011 Daegu World Championships. (IAAF 2011 Daegu World Championships)

The volunteers cover a wide range of duties including judging and athlete assistance, translation, safety and administration among other fields during the nine day event.

“We are working hard volunteering, and since it’s such a big event for Daegu with its own brand, our hearts are filled with satisfaction and fulfillment as residents here,” said Lee Pil-woo who is volunteering with his wife.

Like two peas in a pod, Lee and his wife, Im Gil-soon, are veteran volunteers who have been helping out together over the past four years including at the Pre-Championships meeting last May, and much longer separately.

“I’m grateful that it is being held in Korea and even more so because it is being held in my hometown of 30 years,” said 65-year-old Im, who will help to ensure that the track events go smoothly along with her husband.

Through volunteering, some have gained a newfound interest in track and field events, fueling the growing support for athletics here.

Moon Ju-young, a university student who volunteers as a doping control officer, had little interest in athletics but her interest has grown tenfold since getting involved.

As long-time residents of Daegu, the Lees see a lack of interest in athletics here, and hope that the championships will be an opportunity for Daegu citizens to show their zeal to the international community.

“I wish that Daegu residents would become more interested and come out to cheer and watch the events,” said Im.

“It’s a big event here and we wish a lot of residents would really take a part in it, but we feel like a lot of people are not as interested as they should be,” Lee said in agreement.

Foreigners living in Korea are also joining the Lees, hoping to help even in small ways to make sure events run without a hitch, and to support their countries’ athletes.

“I just wanted to help in any way I can, even though it may be a small effort for such a big event,” said Tian Yuan, 24, from China who is studying mass communications at Kyungpook National University.

As a translator for the athlete support team, Tian hopes to meet her national hero Li Ling, a shot putter who took gold numerous times including the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, last year.

“We had to transport the poles for the pole vault events in the pouring rain,” said Tian.

And although Tian was initially nervous about volunteering, she was able to gain invaluable experiences and new friends.

“A lot of the volunteers are university students here and they are very kind, and through the work I have developed a sense of social responsibility.”

Zhang Le, also a student from China, recognized that the opportunity could be an once-in-a-lifetime chance and signed up as soon as she saw the post.

“I felt being able to participate in an opportunity like this in Korea would be a very good experience for me,” said the 22-year-old who studies food science and nutrition at Kyungpook National University.

And Zhang hopes during the experience she will be able to gain as much as she gives to the events.

“This is the first time I have ever volunteered, and doing so has not only helped my Korean, but I was able to meet a lot of new friends as well,” said Zhang who is part of the security team at the athletes village.

For those living away from home, Daegu is a chance for them to cheer for their native country, even if they can’t directly contribute to the volunteering efforts.

Yuko Imai, who originally signed up for the volunteering program two years ago, found herself unable to volunteer because of her newborn baby, but plans to attend the games.

“I wanted to volunteer, especially because I was always interested in languages, and because opportunities like this are rare in Daegu,” said the 34-year-old mother.

According to Imai, track and field events are immensely popular in Japan, with even celebrities publicly cheering for Japanese athletes, and she plans to add to the fervor.

By Robert Lee (robert@heraldcorp.com)
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