South Korea turn focus to cricket

Incheon, Oct 1 (IANS): This is only the second time cricket is being held at the Asian Games and some countries like South Korea are fielding teams for the first time.

The president of the Korean Cricket Association Kim Seung-chul said many of the players have been recruited from the Dragons cricket club at Sungkyunkwan University.

"I actually established the cricketing club in our school in 2001. I also tried to include the sport as an after school activity and put cricket as one of the general physical education subjects. And in 2011, I established the Korean Cricket Association (KCA) to drive the inclusion of the Korean team at the Games," Kim was quoted as saying by The Korean Herald.

"In 2012, we went on a recruitment drive for national team members and although they had short-term training period, they have enthusiasm and confidence."

Cricket is virtually unheard of in South Korea but there hasn’t been any shortage of volunteers to help at these Asian Games. They have come from the small but enthusiastic local cricketing circle which also includes expat players.


Organisers fear dismal closing act

After dishing out a forgettable opening ceremony that many believe was the worst ever, organisers of the Incheon Asian Games face a daunting challenge of bringing Asia's biggest sporting event to a close in a memorable way - despite opearating on shoestring budget.

"We have noted the criticism we received after the opening ceremony and applied it to the direction of the closing ceremony," Jang Jin, artistic director of the ceremony, told The Korea Times.

But he also said they were facing difficulties to prepare because of the commencement of athletic events at the Incheon Asiad Main Stadium.

"We will not be able to push through with the final rehearsal that had been scheduled for Friday," Jin said.

The closing ceremony will include performances by the National Dance Company of Korea and the National Gugak Center, a countdown using filmed shots of athletes' shirt numbers and AD cards, a taekwondo performance and a concert by boy band Big Bang.

But most people remain unconvinced that the closing ceremony will be an improvement on the opening ceremony, which was likened by the public and foreign media to a hallyu (Korean wave) concert or film festival, featuring more celebrities than sports stars.


Iran look to sports to break tensions

Iran is viewing the ongoing Asian Games as a way to deepen people-to-people exchanges, despite tensions over Tehran's nuclear program, an official said on the sidelines of the mega event.

Iran's emphasis is on sports and its athletes are bolstering their reputation on the playing field said Shahrokh Shahnazi, secretary-general of Iran's national olympic committee.

"For us as the Islamic Republic of Iran, we don't have any problem with people of the US and their practices. We respect them," Shahnazi, 60, told The Korea Times, adding: "The problems that we face (involve) the government of the US, not the people. Sports are about people, not government. And athletes are people."

The official hoped to build strong relations with the US Olympic committee, as well as non-governmental groups seeking to engage in sports diplomacy.

Iran's participation in the Games follows a rare bout of sports diplomacy with Washington, which saw Tehran send a volleyball team to California. The Games come as Washington and five other world powers negotiate with Tehran over its nuclear program in exchange for the easing of sanctions.


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