Cho expects world will enjoy athletics in Daegu
By Kim Ji-soo
DAEGU — Cho Hae-nyoung, co-president of the Organizing Committee for the 2011 World Athletics Championships Daegu, spoke through the smoke of his umpteenth cigarette of the day at his makeshift office at Daegu Stadium.
With just a few days to the start of the 13th IAAF World Championships Saturday, Cho said he was filled half with anticipation and half with anxiety, a mood that permeated throughout the venue as staff, security and journalists were already there roaming about.
There were also a lot of volunteers and support staff on site.
“We have a lot of volunteers — about 6,000 — and we also have the Citizen Supporters, who number about 17,000. These are Daegu citizens assisiting the athletes and related officials. They are a tremendous help in our preparations,” said Cho, speaking in his office at the outer ring of the Daegu Main Stadium.
As host to one of the world’s top three sporting events, Korea’s third largest city is dotted with enormous banners carrying images of the athletes and the main mascot Sarbi.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance. I believe we will be successful, but at the moment, we are paying attention to the smallest of details,” Cho said.
But the organizing committee has pretty much done its job of “preparing the stage for the protagonists.”
“Now the protagonists, the athletes and the fans should come together to prepare for a scintillating stage.”
The former mayor of Daegu hopes to make the worlds a success, like the event in Berlin in 2009, where the stadium was full. “Right now, we have sold about 95 percent of the tickets (for a total of 453,962 seats), and I am anticipating that everyone who has a ticket will show up ... not only for the opening ceremony (Saturday) but also for the days of events that follow.”
Cho went on to say that everyone involved with the preparations as well as the citizens of Daegu are working to the last minute to avoid the case of the 2007 world championships in Osaka where the stadium was largely half-full. Korea has proven itself as a sports powerhouse, but it remains an aspiring country in terms of athletics, and the concern is that not many spectators will actually show up.
But the organizing committee and the citizens of Daegu seemed to be doing their best and “believe in our people’s spirit of coming together for big national events.”
There are many tasks ahead. A total of 52 members of the International Olympic Committee will visit Daegu for the world track meet. Athletics is one of the foundations of the Olympics, thus the attention and regard for the meet. Several members will also bring their families, bringing the total number of IOC guests to over 80.
“Because of the history of Korea, our development and our democratization, there seems to be an international trend that Korea is a country one must visit.”
Cho said that with Korea’s history, he wishes that Daegu’s hosting of the World Athletics Championships can convey hope to a large number of underdeveloped nations around the world.
Against the reality of human history when things in life are not necessarily fair, athletics is a primary sport through which the spirit of fair competition and overcoming one’s limits shines through.
“Watching athletics, seeing how athletes do or rather outdo themselves in the pursuit of fair competition, can refresh our minds to do our best, to be good. This is another message that the Daegu world athletics meet will deliver to the world.”