SPORTS

IOC President Bach hails taekwondo's evolution into 'global' sport

By Alex Park
  • Published : Jun 30, 2017 - 15:03
  • Updated : Jun 30, 2017 - 15:41
MUJU -- Taekwondo may have started in Korea, but the martial art has now evolved into a truly global sport, the world's Olympic chief said Friday.

Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, visited Muju, 240 kilometers south of Seoul, for the closing of the World Taekwondo Championships, hosted by the World Taekwondo Federation.

Bach congratulated the WTF and its South Korean president, Choue Chung-won, for the successful competition, which was the largest in its history with 971 athletes and 796 officials from 183 nations.

"This competition is a great example of how global taekwondo has become in recent years under the leadership of Dr. Choue," Bach sat at a press conference in T1 Arena, the competition venue. "This shows already that taekwondo is really a great player on the international sports stage nowadays. To have these world championships in the birthplace of taekwondo gives (the competition) a special meaning and special atmosphere."
 
Thomas Bach (left), president of the International Olympic Committee, smiles alongside Choue Chung-won, head of the World Taekwondo Federation, at a press conference held during the WTF World Taekwondo Championships in T1 Arena in Muju, North Jeolla Province, on June 30, 2017. (Yonhap)

Bach also gave his thumbs-up on the WTF's reforms and rule changes, which he said "make the sport even more transparent and interesting." New scoring rules approved last November are in use at a world championships for the first time here.

"For these reasons, the IOC's Executive Board, just a couple of weeks ago, did not hesitate to include taekwondo in the proposed list of Olympic sports for the year 2024," Bach said. "This was in recognition of the great progress having been made."

The Executive Board's proposal will be up for final approval during the IOC Session in Lima, Peru, in September.

Taekwondo has come a long way since fighting for respect and relevance on the Olympic stage. To encourage more action and make the sport more spectator-friendly, the WTF, on Choue's watch since 2004, has made several rule changes, including the introduction of electronic vests and helmets with sensors and new point scales.

Seated next to Bach on the podium, Choue said his organization has been helping orphanages and refugee camps around the world give displaced youths hopes and dreams through taekwondo.

This year's WTF championships had a refugee athlete -- Iran-native Dina Pouryounes Langeroudi, now with the Netherlands -- for the first time. Bach noted that the WTF was the first international federation to support the IOC's initiative to create the Olympic Refugee Team and to open its competitions to refugee athletes.

"This is what sports are all about," Bach said. "It's about competition, but it's also about our responsibility for society and for human beings. In this respect, the WTF is really setting a great example." (Yonhap)