Daegu Stadium is ready to play host to the first World Athletics Championships to be held in Korea. A record number of 1,945 athletes from 202 countries will compete in 47 track and field events.
The opening ceremony will show the beauty of Korea’s culture under the five themes of gathering, arrangement, enlightenment, embarkment and rise.
Some 150 dancers dressed in “hanbok,” traditional Korean outfit, will perform with wooden poles, from which rhythmicalsounds will fill the 66,422-seater stadium.
International opera star Sumi Jo will then sing “Son of the Moon” as an artificial moon glows in the sky, on which athletics’ greats will be shown.
The ceremony will continue by introducing the laurel wreath of Sohn Kee-chung, the first Korean to win an Olympic medal, taking gold in Berlin in 1936 in men’s marathon. About 100 dancers decorated with laurel will appear to commemorate the now-deceased Sohn who achieved victory under the imperialist Japanese regime.
The organizing committee says 96 percent of all tickets have been sold. They include sell-outs for the opening day and men’s 100 meter final Sunday, in which sprint sensation Usain Bolt is expected to win.
Among the participating nations, Korea as the host has the fifth largest squad with 63 athletes.
Daegu, country’s third largest city has focused on developing the 66,422-seater stadium into a world-class track and field venue.
Formerly used for football, the stadium was built for the 2002 World Cup co-hosted by South Korea and Japan. It boasts of a Mondo track, manufactured by the Italian company of the same name. The track is certified as Class 1 by the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) and known to provide more consistent bounce and traction for athletes. Mondo tracks have been used in six previous world championships and field meets from 1995 to 2005, and they have produced more than 230 world records.
Twenty-two electric cars will be at the venue to carry athletes around, and also to move equipment such as hurdles.
For the field events, electrically powered equipment will be used to flatten the sand pits after jumps, while a remote-controlled vehicle will be used for the throwing competitions. The 30-centimeter-long vehicle is designed to reduce the risk of staff being injured while collecting objects and also to save time in running the events.
Speed and endurance at test
The fans will be able to see explosive speed as well as demanding endurance of star athletes on the first two days of the World Athletics Championships in Daegu.
Competition over the weekend will start with the women’s marathon Saturday at 9 a.m., and wrap up with the men’s 100-meter final Sunday at 8:45 p.m.
The weekend will feature eight finals, with medals also to be decided for the women’s 10,000 meters, long jump, discus and the men’s 20-kilometer race walk, 10,000 meters and decathlon.
The winner of the women’s marathon is anticipated to depend on the weather conditions on the day.
While the weather in Daegu has been cool with rain this week, in August the city is known for its humidity levels being the highest in the country.
The multi-lap course has two 15 kilometer loops and one 12.195 kilometer circuit finishing in Gukchae-bosang Memorial Park in downtown Daegu. It is generally flat, with a maximum rise and fall over the course of about 20 meters.
China is anticipated to dominate with Asian Games champion Zhou Chunxiu and silver medalist Zhu Xiaolin.
Other strong competitors are from Japan, which traditionally has been in the longest distance event. Ozaki Yoshimo, the 2009 world championships silver medalist will form a formidable group along with Akaba Yukiko, who came sixth in this year’s London Marathon.
Ethiopia and Kenya are expected to field strong squads. Ethiopia will be led by Aselefech Mergia, who triumphed in a January race in Dubai in 2 hours 22 minutes and 45 seconds. Compatriots Bezunesh Bekele and Atsede Baysa, fourth and fifth at the London Marathon, both in 2:23:50 are also primed for a win.
Kenya will be led by Edna Kiplagat, who took third in London in 2:20:46, making her the fastest entrant in this race.
While the women marathon runners of the event will show endurance on the first day, the male sprinters will flex their muscles to unleash their speed in the 100-meter final Sunday.
Usain Bolt, the fastest men on earth, is perhaps the most highly-anticipated athlete to appear, here to defend his world title from Berlin in 2009. The world record holder with the 9.58-second mark he set two years ago has recovered from injury and said he will focus on winning rather than beating his personal best.
The Jamaican has had a relatively conservative season, with a narrow victory in Monaco, posting 9.88.
But as compatriot and strong rival Asafa Powell has pulled out of the 100 after failing to overcome a groin injury, Bolt is likely to claim another world title with relative ease.
The United States, a traditional sprint powerhouse, will look to Justin Gatlin and Walter Dix to break the Jamaican stranglehold on the event.
The men’s 20-kilometer race walk will see Korea’s national recorder holder Kim Hyun-sub in action.
The country’s best race walker with a 1:19:31 mark carries a heavy burden to win a medal. He is one of the few Korean athletes thought to have a genuine chance of making the podium.