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2011 sports news in review

The July 6 announcement that Pyeongchang would host the 2018 Winter Olympics resounded across the globe, as the news from the International Olympic Committee in Durban, South Africa, reached excited bid-watchers in Korea. After several disappointing losses, to Canada in 2004 and Russia in 2007, Korea finally won the chance to secure Pyeongchang’s place in Olympic history.

The dreams of Pyeongchang to host the Winter Olympics came true on its third try. Figure skater Kim Yu-na and spokesperson Na Seung-yeon who participated in the presentation for the bid earned rave reviews.

Pyeongchang was chosen to host the 2018 Winter Olympics and participants in the IOC on July 6 enjoyed the festivities at Durban (top: Yonhap News, bottom: Cheong Wa Dae).

In a survey by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of 22 reporters, the news of winning the bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics was chosen as the number one story on the 2011 policy news top ten list. It was a meaningful year for Korea, which has provided the stage for five major international competitions including the 1988 Summer Olympics, FIFA World Cup 2002, the 2011 IAAF Championships in Daegu, and the Formula One Grand Prix. The strengthened diplomatic ties in sports made a big contribution and the efforts of regional governments were regarded to have paid off. Korea gained its Grand Slam title by adding the 2018 Winter Olympics to the list. So far only five countries -- France, Germany, Italy, Russia, and Japan –- have had the opportunity to hold the four major international competitions. Korea is to follow in the sixth spot and second place in the Asia region.

The World Championships Daegu 2011 held on August 27 (Photo courtesy of 2011 Daegu organizing committee)

The World Championships Daegu 2011 also secured a place among the top ten sports news for 2011. The World Championships that took place on August 27 in Daegu afforded a chance for locals to watch the games attended by world famous athletes. It was a large-scale competition with 1,900 athletes from 202 nations participating. Daegu citizens showed vigor and great manners during the games. Visiting Korea during the competition period, the chairman of the London 2012 bidding company, Sebastian Coe, said he wished he could take the enthusiastic spirit back to London.

Korea’s second Formula One Grand Prix in Yeongam County (Photo courtesy of the F1 Organizing Committee)

In addition, the 2011 Formula One Korea Grand Prix took place from October 14 to 16 in Yeongam County, Jeollanam-do (South Jeolla Province). Korea was internationally recognized as an F1 hosting country, attracting 160,000 viewers during the three-day run. The 2011 F1, Korea’s second time hosting the Formula One Grand Prix, received praise for the high quality of its event facilities and trackside infrastructure, which had been upgraded after the previous year’s event. All unpaved spots found last year were covered with asphalt and the transportation system which had caused serious traffic jams was much improved with the adoption of a shuttle bus lane this year.

Choi Na-yeon, the winner at Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia, kisses her trophy (Photo: Yonhap News).

Korean female golfers also achieved a remarkable outcome at the LPGA, winning their 100th game for Korea. It took 23 years to build up 100 victories since Korean women first started at the LPGA Tour Standard Register in 1988. The golfers were expected to reach 100 wins sooner, since they had reached 98 wins last year, but the final two games took a lot of work. The athletes had a long struggle at 99 wins experiencing many losses before Choi Na-yeon finally faced glory at Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia in October.

Korea also stands out in e-sports. The World Cyber Games (WCG), the largest electronic gaming festival in the world, opened its Grand Festival in Busan earlier this month, marking the first time in eight years that Korea has hosted the event. The WCG selected a total of nine games from across genres that reflect current trends in the gaming industry. These included real-time strategy game Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty, first-person shooter games Special Force, and Crossfire, and MMORPG World of WarcCraft: Cataclysm. Korea enhanced its national standing by winning four gold medals, two silvers, and one bronze in the finals.

The number of Korean baseball fans who attended season games exceeded the six million mark, proving the sport’s increasing popularity (Photo: Yonhap News).

Baseball became recognized as the biggest sport in Korea, with the number of baseball fans attending games in stadiums exceeding the six million mark. Powered by victories at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2009 World Baseball Classics, baseball fever was accelerated by active promotion by baseball clubs to broaden baseball's fanbase. According to a survey conducted by the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), the number of female fans in particular hiked up to the 2.4 million point and the total number of baseball fans who visited a stadium during the 2011 season ended up reaching 6.8 million.

The Korea national baseball team celebrated its 30th anniversary this year. In this meaningful year, the NC Dinos became the ninth team confirmed by the KBO to be included in Korean professional baseball league. Also, Suwon City and North Jeolla Province revealed their willingness to become the tenth team.

Goyang Wonders, an independent team based in Goyang, was founded in December joining the Korean professional baseball teams. The manager of the club, Huh-Min, was spotlighted as he donated 1.5 billion won for maintenance costs of the club. Baseball player Park Chan-ho also donated a sum of 600 million won, which included his annual pro-league income, to amateur and youth clubs when he came back to Hanhwa.

The foundation of two new baseball teams and the comeback of big stars including Park Chan-ho, Lee Seung-yup, and Kim Tae-Kyun to the Korean stage are expected to give rise to the already-heated baseball fever.

By Lee Seung-ah Staff Writer

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