Eric Saintrond, secretary general of the International University Sports Federation (FISU), has promised the governing body will do its best to support inter-Korean cooperation ahead of Gwangju 2015.
South Korea recently ruled out the possibility of a unified Korean team at the Summer Universiade, but Saintrond is hopeful they can put on a united front by marching alongside the North Koreans at the Opening Ceremony on July 3.
Speaking at the ongoing Heads of Delegation (HOD) meeting in the host city, Gwangju 2015 secretary general Kim Yoon-suk also claimed that central Government is in support of North Korean cheerleaders attending the event and the Universiade Torch Relay passing through the country South Korea is still technically at war with.
The HOD meeting, which provides a platform for showcasing Gwangju 2015 to the world and enable participants to visit and inspect the venues, has brought together more than 110 delegates from 51 countries, including North Korea.
“For the last five years, Gwangju and the Republic of Korea have worked hard to present the best Universiade so that all participants can demonstrate their fullest capacity in Gwangju,” said Kim.
“Since this meeting is the first official interaction between the delegations and the Organising Committee, we focused on delivering the most comprehensive and most up-to-date information so that the delegations can perform to their fullest.”
A video highlighting Gwangju’s culture, cuisine, and tourist sites was shown to delegates after the opening remarks, before a 50-minute introduction of the Gwangju Universiade was presented.
In the afternoon, the HODs visited seven venues, including the newly-built Nambu University International Aquatics Centre and Jinwol International Tennis Court.
Later, the team draws for basketball, volleyball, water polo, football, and handball took place, in the presence of several South Korean sports stars.
Hong Jeong-ho, an Olympic gold medal winner in handball at Barcelona 1992, was joined by Kang Man-soo, a three-time Olympian in volleyball, as well as national football superstar Choi Soon-ho, and former Korea University basketball team head coach Lim Jung-myung.
Representatives from various sports associations, including the North Korea delegation, also participated in the team draw.
Pool C in the women’s football competition has taken the "group of death" tag, pitting the world’s top-ranked team Brazil against North Korea and China, ranked second and third respectively.
A press conference soon followed involving Saintrond, Kim, FISU's Summer Universiade director Marc Vandenplas, and Gwangju 2015 sports division director general Geum Gihyung Keum, before the HODs completed the day’s schedule by visiting the Athletes’ Village, Naju Public Stadium, and Naju Shooting Range.
“The HOD meeting is an important step during the preparation phase of the Universiade,” said Saintrond.
“It will also allow the HODs to deliver relevant information to the athletes and officials as well as the National Sports Federations that are not always properly informed about the rules, standards, and specificities of our University Sports Events.”
The head of British Universities and College Sport (BUCS), Andrew Hibbert, added: "This is actually my second time visiting Gwangju.
"BUCS delegation usually visits the host city a year before the Opening Ceremony to examine the venues, weather, and preparations.
"Thanks to the Organising Committee, we had a wonderful experience on our first visit and we have no doubt that Gwangju will host a successful Universiade.”
More venue inspections and a question and answer session will be held tomorrow.
Historic unified Korean team in sight for Gwangju 2015 as countdown officially begins
July 2013: Mayor of Gwangju hopes for united Korea team for 2015 Universiade
October 2012: Gwangju 2015 Universiade chief calls for a united Korean team