SEOUL: North Korea is reportedly close to securing its first significant global sports event for almost 40 years, in line with leader Kim Jong-Un’s plans to turn the reclusive country into a sporting powerhouse.
According to Inside the Games, a website specializing in the organization of international sporting events, Pyongyang hopes to host the world junior judo championships in 2017, and the world weightlifting juniors a year later.
The last major global sports event to be held in the North was the world table tennis championship way back in 1979.
According to the website, a “senior member of North Korea’s sporting set-up” who was attending the senior weightlifting world championships in Texas last week suggested one of the target events was already in the bag.
“It is definite, the junior world championship of judo will be in our country in 2017,” the unnamed official said.
An official at the Korea Judo Association in Seoul said he was aware of “unofficial talks” between Pyongyang and the international judo federation, but he had no knowledge of any agreement being reached.
“That said, there is no reason to oppose North Korea hosting any world championships,” he added.
The head of judo’s global governing body, Marius Vizer, visited Pyongyang earlier this month, but North Korean state media coverage of his two-day trip was limited to one-line announcements of his arrival and departure.
North Korea is relatively stong in judo, which accounted for one of the four gold medals it won at the 2012 London Olympics.
The other three came in weightlifting — a sport in which it can genuinely claim a growing global prestige.
North Korea made a failed bid to host the 2017 world weightlifting juniors, which was awarded to Japan.
International Weightlifting Federation chief Attila Adamfi has made it clear he believes a North Korean-hosted world championships would be good for the sport.
Kim Jong-Un is known to be an avid sports fan and in March he promised state support to turn his country into a sports powerhouse “within a few years”.
While rival South Korea punches above its weight in the international sporting arena, the North’s sporting record has largely failed to fulfill its aspirations.
It has competed in nine summer Olympics since Munich in 1972, but taken home only 14 gold medals. The four golds it won in London equaled its best-ever tally.
In October 2013 Kim introduced a policy rewarding successful athletes with luxury apartments in recognition of their achievements.