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A naIve approach

Oct 16,2018
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President Moon Jae-in drops by a promotional booth of AmorePacific, South Korea’s largest cosmetics company, at the opening ceremony of the Korea-China trade partnership conference in Beijing last Dec. 14 with Suh Kyung-bae, center, chairman and CEO of the cosmetics company. [YONHAP]
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Chung Jeh-won
The author is a sports editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.

Thomas Bach is dubbed the czar of world sports. The German lawyer and 1976 Olympics medalist in team foil fencing has been serving as president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) since 2013. Having studied law and politics at college, he served as a lawyer and sports administrator after retiring from fencing.

Bach is king of the hill in the world of sports because of the mighty power of the IOC. The IOC is in charge of deciding everything about the summer and winter sports competitions ranging from selecting the host country to determining the categories of competition. After summit talks in Pyongyang, South Korean President Moon Jae-in last month proposed the two Koreas co-host the 2032 Olympics. If the bid succeeds, the Summer Games would be held on the Korean Peninsula for the second time after the 1988 Seoul Olympics. But that’s only possible if IOC members support the plan.

Diplomacy is important in the global sports community. The only South Korean national on the IOC committee is Ryu Seung-min, who won a gold medal in table tennis in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens. No one represents South Korea from a non-sports backgrounds. Samsung Group Chairman Lee Kun-hee, who was elected to the IOC in 1996, gave up his membership in August 2017 citing poor health. Kim Un-yong, former vice president of the IOC, who held a lofty place in the world of sports along with Juan Antonio Samaranch, who headed the body from 1980 to 2001, passed away last year. Park Yong-sung, the former chairman of the International Judo Federation, resigned in 2007 after he was suspended from the IOC. China, which will host the 2022 Winter Olympics, has three IOC members. The United States, Canada, France, Switzerland, and Italy each have three of their citizens on the IOC board. Japan’s number recently increased to two.

There are 103 incumbent members of the IOC Commission. Seventy-two countries have produced IOC members. The number usually falls short of the full quota of 115. Seventy are on the commission as individuals and 15 are former Olympics medalists. Another 15 seats are reserved for the chiefs of international sports federations and another 15 for representatives of national Olympic committees. Anyone elected before 1999 can hold the title until the age of 80 and those who joined the committee after 1999 can hold it until the age of 70. Former Olympics medalists can serve as IOC members for four to eight years.

South Korea has been trying to win another membership since it hosted the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in February. But it’s not easy to get. The candidate must have rich experience in sports and be fluent in two to three languages. Leadership and expertise are essential. Although the title does not pay a salary, IOC members receive good treatment wherever they go.

In June, Suh Kyung-bae, chairman of South Korea’s AmorePacific Group, visited the IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, and expressed a desire to join the IOC. Thomas Bach turned him away. Rep. Lee Dong-seop, a lawmaker from the Bareunmirae Party, criticized the Blue House for fielding someone without a sports background. Some IOC members were allegedly confounded by Suh’s surprising bid.

Korea must groom candidates to represent the country in the sports field. The Blue House was either naïve or arrogant to think its candidate would automatically be accepted. Sports to our politicians may still be regarded as mere ornaments.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 15, Page 27