MASSIVE public and private sector spending on sport has put South Korea on track for their most successful Olympic Games in London, and Seoul also expects that investment to pay off when Pyeongchang hosts the Winter Games in 2018.
The country’s Olympic chief, Y.S. Park, said in an interview on Friday the Korean government pumped US$100mil per year into sports, while private companies sink an additional US$30mil of their own money into individual federations.
Those figures are on a par with countries such as Britain which is hosting the London Games.
UK Sport, established in 1997, annually invests around £100mil (US$156.50mil) of public funds – from the lottery and government – in high performance sport while other money comes in from a Team 2012 initiative.
For Korea, the result has been a gold rush in London, with the East Asian powerhouse sitting fifth in the medal standings with 12 golds, just shy of their record 13 set in Beijing.
With one more day of competition, including the Korean martial art of taekwondo, the South Koreans have blown by their modest target of 10 golds set before the Games.
In addition to the huge government spending, South Korean conglomerates are also digging into their own pockets to sponsor athletes and support individual sports.
The spending does not stop with development, however, and South Korea athletes enjoy some of the best preparations and logistical support of any teams coming into major events like the Olympic and Asian Games.
South Korea hosted the Summer Games in 1988 and will host the winter event in 2018. Park said Korea hope to emulate their summer success on snow and ice.
“Since we do such a good job in the Summer Games we can be good in the Winter Games as well,” he said.
Korean skaters are among the world’s best and regularly come home with gold medals from the Games but Park said they were looking to skiing to boost their medal tally in Pyeongchang.
Skiers are already training in New Zealand’s South Island during the northern hemisphere’s summer, he added. “Maybe Sochi 2014 Olympics is still too short but in Pyeongchang we will achieve good results.” — Reuters