Gwangju 2019 Chiefs Seek North Korean Deal
(ATR) Organizers of the FINA 2019 world championships tell Around the Rings they are in talks to involve North Korea.
Debra Han, head of the Gwangju 2019 international cooperation team, and organizing committee vice-president Young-Teck Cho (ATR)
In an exclusive interview, Young-Teck Cho, secretary general and vice-president of Gwangju 2019 organizing committee, said he wants to capitalize on the improvement in relations between North and South aided by the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.
At the Games, North and South Korean athletes marched together at the opening ceremony under a unified flag. The two nations also fielded a unified women’s ice hockey team.
“Right now there is a very good atmosphere building between North and South Korea and we are trying to use this opportunity to emphasize the concept of peace in our championships,” Cho said. “That’s something we feel that no other championships can have.”
Last year, Gwangju 2019 launched its Dive into Peace slogan that Cho said “reflects our determination and spirit of the host city”.
He said staging next year’s swimming worlds was not only about the competition: “We want to make the Gwangju world championships an opportunity to build this world peace through better North and South Korean relations”.
“To achieve that we are in contact with central government as well as FINA and other international organizations,” he added.
“We are talking with them to open this channel for a communication with North Korea and trying to see what opportunities we have to bring North Korea to South Korea.”
Some of the ideas on the table include the participation of North Korean athletes at the Gwangju event. Cho said a joint event with the North and South Koreas delegation and creating a unified Koreas team were other possibilities.
Cho said FINA was playing an active role in helping Gwangju to achieve its objectives to enhance peace on the Korean peninsula.
In July, Gwangju 2019 organizers will mark the year-to-go milestone. A big ceremony involving Korean athletes and sporting legends is planned as part of efforts to raise awareness of the world swimming championships.
Cho said the low-key profile of Gwangju 2019 was one of the challenges to address.
In July, Gwangju 2019 organizers will mark the year-to-go milestone. championships (ATR)
“It’s very important for us to create this booming atmosphere in Korea as well as worldwide to promote the event to the public,” he told ATR of the 17-day event which will be followed by the city hosting the FINA World Masters Championships.
“It’s important for us to have the top swimmers from around the world come to Korea to participate in this.”
Preparations are on track, he confirmed. The main venue of the five being used for competition will have 8,000 temporary seats installed in the coming months to lift capacity to 11,000.
Construction of temporary venues gets underway in the second half of this year, while work on overlay will also soon start to provide additional facilities for athletes, coaches, the FINA family and media.
Cho said excitement is building: “We are very excited to have the world championships in a year and excited to see a lot of media having more interest in it.”
Asked how Gwangju 2019 could improve on Budapest 2017, Cho said: “It is hard to compare as they are under very different conditions”.
“They had great championships,” he added, citing Korea’s staging of mega-events such as the Olympics, the FIFA World Cup and IAAF world championships as evidence of its ability to deliver again.
“We have a lot of expertise and knowhow to organize these major-scale and international sporting events,” Cho said. “We need to build up the national and international interest in our championships and that’s what we are focusing on the most.”
Reported by Mark Bisson