Inspectors Impressed Over Gwangju Facilities
By Kim Tong-hyung
By Kim Tong-hyung
GWANGJU - Inspectors judging Gwangju's 2013 Universiade bid said the Koreans would be well-equipped to stage the world's second-largest sporting event, but also advised the city to detail its budget estimate and secure more transport options from Seoul.
The six-member evaluation commission, led by International University Sports Federation (FISU) Vice President Stefan Bergh, endured a frantic weekend touring the city's sporting landmarks, including a helicopter tour dropping in on separate football grounds, and sitting through hours of briefings on the city's planning and financial package.
``We advised that the city could improve the way they construct their operational budget, that the calculation could be more in-depth,'' said Begh in a news conference Sunday at the Kim Dae-jung Convention Center in Gwangju.
``We also recommended to a satisfying number of transport between Incheon Airport and Gwangju to efficiently move athletes from Incheon to Gwangju,'' he said.
Bergh said the inspectors were impressed with Gwangju in key areas including the venue plan, public opinion and the political and financial backing of the bid.
Gwangju is one of the three candidate cities looking to host the 2013 Universaide, or the world university games, the others being Vigo, Spain, and Kazan, Russia. The Universiade is the second-largest sporting event in size, trailing only the Olympics, involving more than 10,000 athletes from about 170 countries.
The inspectors have already toured Vigo and Kazan is next on the calendar before issuing a final report on the three candidate cities ahead of the May 31 FISU vote in Brussels, Belgium.
While a good evaluation report may not guarantee a winning bid, a bad one is likely to ensure defeat.
Bergh's encouraging comments has Gwangju officials hoping for a glowing appraisal of the city in Brussels, although the evaluation commission might be more specific in identifying the bid's drawbacks in its final report.
Should Gwangju be announced as the winning bid in Brussels, it would become the second Korean city to host the Universiade, following Daegu, which hosted the 2003 summer games.
Asked whether Daegu's hosting of the 2003 event, as well as China's Shenzen landing the 2011 games, would have a negative effect on Gwangju's bid, Bergh stressed that FISU has no policy for continental rotation, but admitted that it could be somewhat of a factor in the vote outcome.
``There is no rotation policy within our organization, but I can't answer for all of my colleagues,'' he said.
``It may be an issue for some of our members, but it is important to stress that we have no policy of that kind.''
The inspectors were among a lucky minority able to move freely around Gwangju on Saturday and Sunday as police tightly controlled traffic flow on the routes connecting each sports venue.
Municipal authorities rallied thousands of spectators at inspection venues for four-days straight, including thunderous crowds gathered at the Gwangju World Cup Stadium and the Yeomju Sports Center Saturday, touching off criticism whether organizers have gone over-the-top in their efforts to impress the FISU delegation.
Some observers had pointed out the venue plan as a weak point for the Gwangju bid, but inspectors seemed positive about the distance between stadiums.
``I don't think the distance between the sports venues would be a problem as it is not very different from that of previous Universiade events," said Hisato Igarashi, a former gymnast who won a gold for Japan in the 1976 Montreal Olympics, who rated the overall quality of the facilities as ``great."
The normally reserved Igarashi got into a playful mood at the Gwangju Physical Education High School, showing that he still got the moves by executing a back flip at the school's gymnastics floor.
Stavros Douvis, a Greek tennis legend, exchanged some volleys with Serbia's Sinisa Jasnic at the tennis court of the Yeomju Sports Center as the inspectors remained in good spirits amid a hectic schedule.
The evaluation commission was briefed on the city's plans for security, medical services, doping control and media promotion at the Kim Dae-jung Convention Center Sunday, where they later held a news conference to wrap up their schedule in Gwangju.
The city currently has around 1,500 hospitals with about 15,000 beds and says its planning to spend in the region of 35 billion won ($34 million) through 2010 to add more medical service units and improve the facilities of current ones.
Gwangju is planning to enforce tight drug control measures during the 2013 games to meet the standards of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Also planned is an advanced communications network to allow seamless connection between the competition venues, media center and athletes' village and provide real-time results that could be accessed from anywhere around the sites.
``The Universiade is a complex sporting event that involves over 10,000 athletes from 160 to 170 countries competing in 12 to 14 different sports, and not many cities can compete to host an event like this," said Bergh in a reception hosted by Prime Minister Han Seung-soo.
``There are critical elements for a successful Universiade _ physical elements including sports venues, where to sleep, where to eat and transportation, and also the spiritual and emotional character of the people living in the city.
``The games also require full support at all political levels, including local, regional and government … We are impressed with what we have seen here.''