DAEGU, SOUTH KOREA – After travelling for 26 hours yesterday to get to Daegu, South Korea, the site of the IAAF World Championships in Track & Field, I was feeling tired and brain dead by the time my third plane of the day touched down in Daegu.
I picked up my bag and headed for the exit, intent only on getting a taxi and getting to my hotel as soon as possible.
I walked through the doors into the lobby of the airport, and was confronted by 300 or so Koreans of all ages, who began wildly applauding and waving flags as soon as they saw me! Dumbfounded, I stopped and glanced behind me, thinking maybe someone famous had followed me through the doors (a sensible thought given that retired sprint great Michael Johnson had been on the same plane as were several athletes competing here), but there was no one behind me. The crowd was, indeed, cheering for me.
Surprise turned to embarrassment. I tried to respond to their cheers with as big a smile as I could muster as I walked by. Reaching the door leading to the taxis and buses, I stopped and watched every single person from the plane get the same warm welcome as they came through the door I had passed through.
I guess that is as good a reason as any to justify Daegu’s selection as host of these championships. This city of 2.5 million is not exactly a track and field hotbed, but its citizens are obviously proud and eager to have thousands of athletes, support personnel, media and fans flocking here. The strong economy of South Korea, and sponsors like Samsung probably didn’t hurt either.
Daegu Stadium holds about 70,000, and previously was used as one of the sites for the 2002 Soccer World Cup. Attendance is anticipated to be very good during the eight-day meet, and signs and murals promoting the championships are all over Daegu.
Saturday morning at 10 a.m. the women’s marathon and men’s decathlon will get things going here. The first two days of action are loaded with compelling events, especially for track fans in the state of Oregon.
Ashton Eaton will attempt to win his first medal in a major international competition and stamp himself as an Olympic favorite in the decathlon. Nick Symmonds will try to break through for a medal in the 800. Shalane Flanagan, Kara Goucher, and Galen Rupp will try to overcome the heat and humidity here, as well as the outstanding African distance runners, to win glory in the 10,000 meters.
NBC will televise the meet on weekends and Universal will cover it during the week. Here’s a link to the TV broadcast schedule:
I will also be posting articles on this website each day on the athletes and events I am covering here.