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Chuncheon emerges as int'l leisure city as World Leisure Games conclude

All Headlines 17:37 August 28, 2018

CHUNCHEON, South Korea, Aug. 28 (Yonhap) -- The city of Chuncheon in northeastern South Korea emerged as one of leisure destinations, as the curtain fell at the 2018 World Leisure Games on Monday.

In the four-day international sports event that started on Friday and took place around Songam Sports Town in the city in Gangwon Province, about 6,500 athletes from 30 countries gathered to compete for championships in 14 events comprising five international and nine local leisure sports.

Most events scheduled for the first day of the competition were canceled or delayed due to Typhoon Soulik but its operation was normalized from Saturday.

The competition became more global as it was timed with the general assembly of the International Dance Organization (IDO) and the World Street Dance Cups.

An athlete takes part in the action sports event during the 2018 World Leisure Games in the northeastern city of Chuncheon on Aug. 26, 2018. (Yonhap)

The international leisure sports in the games were actions sports, inline slalom, radio-controlled car racing, water skiing and carrom, while the games' local events comprised drone racing, sport climbing, ice hockey, inline speed, king canoe race, dart, taekwondo dance, deep water soloing and the strategic two-person board game "baduk."

A K-pop concert was staged one day after the opening of the four-day international sports event, its seventh run since 2010 when it was first hosted by the city, 85 kilometers east of Seoul, to promote outdoor activities to people of all ages worldwide and help develop the lakeside city's leisure industry.

The entertainment event, in which top idol groups and singers performed at the main stadium of the sports town, drew as many as 15,000 domestic and foreign visitors. At one point, more than 8,000 people were glued to the real-time coverage of the concert through YouTube.

Many high-ranking athletes competing in the international events helped elevate the level of the international competition.

Radio-controlled car racing is under way during the 2018 World Leisure Games in the northeastern city of Chuncheon on Aug. 26, 2018. (Yonhap)

In the radio-controlled car racing event were the world's 10th-ranked Ryan Lutz and Japan's top riders Wataru Takashiro and Shin Atachi.

Visitors were enthralled by feats pulled off by leading athletes in the action sports event.

They were also given chances to view such unique sports as carrom, a cue sport-inspired tabletop game of South Asian origin that debuted in the games, and deep water soloing, or a form of solo climbing over a deep body of water.

Hong Sun-yeon, a senior official at the sports festival's organizing committee, said that "the approaching typhoon forced some events to be delayed ahead of the opening. But starting on the weekend, we were able to put the competition back on track and truly stage it as the top leisure competition in the country."

According to the organizing committee, the total number of people, including athletes, came to 89,000 in the four-day period, less than the 110,000 recorded in the sixth version of the competition in 2016, but a total of 34,000 people per day visited the festival.

An athlete takes part in the deep water soloing event during the 2018 World Leisure Games in the northeastern city of Chuncheon on Aug. 26, 2018. (Yonhap)

A total of 20,000 visitors took part in a variety of programs and tourist attractions, including a tea ceremony, an event for wearing traditional Korean attire, "hanbok," and making dolls. Also among such programs were a song festival and a fair on the industrialization of leisure that brought together a total of 15 leisure-related companies to show off their products and services.

Behind the successful hosting of the sports festival were a whole gamut of services, like interpretation and venue guidance, which was provided by 90 volunteers aged in their teens through 70s.

Ma Moo-il, a volunteer who has taken part in the competition since its second version in 2012, offered to make some mobile contents for the organizing committee as well as to escort spectators into venues alongside his wife. "I hope that my service will help make Chuncheon, where the leisure competition is held, better known globally," the 77-year-old Ma said.

Yoon Soo-hwan, a 14-year-old boy, said he joined the volunteering service to promote the leisure competition toward people from abroad and broaden his experience, expressing his hope, "I wish I could take part in the next competition if the situation allows me."

Choi Gap-yong, vice chief of the organizing committee, thanked the volunteers for their contribution to the successful staging of the competition. "The durability of the sports competition is surely attributed to the service of a total of 2,780 volunteers from 2010 to this year.

This photo, taken on Aug. 25, 2018, shows Songam Sports Town, the venue of the 2018 World Leisure Games, in the northeastern city of Chuncheon. (Yonhap)

The leisure festival, however, laid bare the problem of insufficient facilities for visitors to stay longer, which was the case with its previous versions.

In yet another downside to the festival, visitors had to put up with inconvenience in terms of traffic and parking.

Creating more programs for visitors appears to be an urgent issue to be taken care of, so as to sustain the annual competition and help increase visitors' participation.

On Monday, organizers held a forum at the city's Kangwon National University to discuss ways to beef up the leisure and sports industry and provide the theoretical groundwork for the industry's development.

Hwang Hyang-hee, a professor in the sports science department at the school, called for the leisure games to be held in mid-September, rather than in August when typhoons or heat waves could upset the schedules of the games.

The professor also proposed that the organizing committee be recreated to have leisure experts and citizens who together help search solutions to the need of creating a sustainable competition.

Lee Seung-goo, a professor of the university's tourism management department, came up with an action plan on how to make the Chuncheon region a tourism and leisure hub. Other participants laid out their proposals for a direction in which the city can establish academic and theoretical groundwork for the leisure and sports industry.

Chungcheon Mayor Lee Jea-su expressed his hope the city will further develop into an international leisure and sports city that utilizes its mountains, rivers, lakes and cultural assets, adding "The development of leisure sports, in which we make good use of the natural environment while preserving it, is consistent with the spirit of a civil government."

namsh@yna.co.kr
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