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Universiade group pitches 2021 joint Korean games

Oct 16,2018
Eric Saintrond, secretary general of the International University Sports Federation (FISU), met with Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon during the mayor’s trip to Switzerland earlier this month to propose hosting a Seoul-Pyongyang Summer Universiade in 2021.

Summer Universiade is an international university sports event held every two years that draws some thousands of student athletes from all over the world.

The last Summer Universiade was held in Taipei in 2017 and the next is scheduled in Napoli in 2019. Korea held one in Gwangju in 2015 and in Daegu in 2003.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government said in a statement Sunday that Saintrond came to see Park in Zurich on Oct. 4 while Park was on his study trip to Spain, Switzerland and Estonia seeking examples of digital innovation and urban development. The FISU headquarters is in Lausanne, Switzerland.

“The proposal was to have Seoul and Pyongyang co-host the Summer Universiade in 2021, to have Seoul host the opening ceremony and Pyongyang the closing ceremony,” the city government said in a statement. “The two cities would host different games in each location.”

The original agreement to host the Summer Universiade in Turkmenistan in 2021 fell through, according to the city government, for unexplained reasons.

Park said he didn’t confirm anything during the meeting.

“The matter is not for the Seoul city government to decide by itself,” Park said. “We need to discuss it with the central government, the Korea University Sport Federation and other relevant bodies and experts.”

One matter of concern for Park is the inter-Korean plan to host jointly the Summer Olympics in 2032, which South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un agreed to bid on last month.

“We will have to focus on bidding to host the Games in 2032,” Park said. “So we will have to discuss with the central government and related bodies if hosting an inter-Korean Universiade would be appropriate in terms of its timing.”

Park had previously proposed hosting the Olympics jointly with Pyongyang.

Within hours of his return from his trip to Pyongyang in September as part of President Moon’s entourage, Park announced in a press conference at Seoul City Hall that he wants Seoul to co-host the 2032 Summer Olympics with Pyongyang.

During his trip to Europe earlier this month, Park reiterated this hope.

Park told a group of reporters during the trip. “The Seoul city government has renovated and readied the infrastructure needed for sporting events through its preparation for the National Sports Festival.”

Seoul is spending 45.5 billion won ($40.2 million) from 2017 to 2019 on renovating 29 sporting facilities in the capital to prepare for the festival.

The National Sports Festival is held annually in a city or region of Korea, with about 20,000 people participating in some 50 sporting events. The 100th festival is to be held in Seoul next year.

BY ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]