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24 July 2018 | in Hosting, Summer Universiade, Swimming

Former Universiade host city gears up for World Aquatics Championships

Gwangju may witness next Unified Korean team

 

The artistic and culturally vibrant South Korean city of Gwangju, which successfully hosted the Gwangju 2015 Summer Universiade in the past, is now all set to host the highest swimming meet in the world. The world class aquatics venues of Gwangju 2015 will be under the spotlight once againt, during the FINA World Aquatics Championships in July 2019.

 

Moreover, the FINA World Championships will see further exploration of peaceful relations between North and South Korea and possibly even another Unified Team, after the grand success at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics.

 

With just one year to go for the Championships, FISU spoke to Dr. Youngteck Cho, Secretary General of the Organizing Committee (OC) of the 2019 FINA World Championships, about the strong legacy of the Universiades and how these legacies enable a city to grow its sporting culture and global imprint.

 

Excerpts from the interview:

 

FISU: Gwangju has gone from hosting the 2015 Summer Universiade to now hosting the 2019 FINA World Aquatics Championships. As hosts of the Summer Universiade, what are the people of your city most proud of?

OC: The people of Gwangju feel very proud that they hosted a multi-sport event. We received very good reviews from around the world, especially with regard to volunteer activities and the people feel a sense of pride that they did this together. Also, we believe that hosting the Universiade is what led us to hosting the 2019 FINA World Championship and again, overall we’re very proud.

 

FISU: It is interesting that before Gwangju it was Kazan that hosted the Summer Universiade and they too went on to host the FINA World Championships in 2015. How has this legacy come about, of hosting a Universiade and then the top swimming meet a couple of years afterwards?

OC: I think most of the cities that host these kind of large events are concerned about legacy and sustainability, especially with regard to the use of facilities and venues. Thanks to the Universiade, we created an aquatic centre that is internationally certified and truly world class and we believe it is best to keep using those facilities. It is also a good way to help our citizens understand that we will indeed keep utilising these venues effectively.

 

FISU: You talk about facilities. Has Gwangju seen its citizens, the people that live there, using these facilities as well? Has it brought about a benefit to the community?

OC: I will give you an example, mainly for the aquatic centre. It's been running very well, with thousands of people utilising the facility through the year. It is very helpful for us, for the community and for future events, because it lowers the budget for the next upcoming event. It’s a great way to have more sustainable budgets and it is very economically effective.

 

FISU: Gwangju is the city of democracy and human rights. So, how do sports events help promote peace and unity in the Korean peninsula?

OC: Peace and sports go hand in hand and we would like to continue promoting that through the events we host. As a city that represents human rights and peace, we want people to experience that when they visit us. After the recent event in Pyeongchang (2018 Winter Olympics), the relationship between South and North Korea has become better. We would like to use that as a starting point and take it further. There are four ways we can do this.

First of all, if North Korea’s swimming team is interested in coming and visiting Gwangju ahead of the Championships, we’re excited to open our aquatic centre for them to train, at any time. Secondly, we are going to host test events prior to the World Championships and we will invite the North Korean teams to come and participate. Thirdly, we will try to start a cultural exchange with them through performances and activities, although this still needs to be figured out in detail. Lastly, we will invite North Korea to participate at the World Championships, either separately on their own or as a Unified Team. Although this cannot happen only through us. We need the help of the National Olympic Committees, the National Federations, FINA and all those organisations to help bring them in.

 

FISU: You have a great social legacy. There are people in your Organising Committee that worked in the Summer Universiade and are now working for the FINA World Championships. What is the most enduring legacy of the Universiade, that you see? One that you look forward to building even more with the FINA Championships?

OC: There are two, in fact. One of them is the facilities, which we mentioned earlier. We are utilising all the venues that we had during the Universiade. The second one is human resources, people. Officials and volunteers who gained immense experience and professionalism during their training and operational work at the Universiade are now involved in the upcoming Aquatic World Championships. We are working on interweaving experience and innovation, local and international, analog and digital, in such a way that we are able to deliver a good FINA World Aquatics Championships in 2019.