By Martin Ross
The World Taekwondo Federation has targeted increased broadcast exposure for the Olympic sport of taekwondo after recently completing a rights distribution deal with IB Sports, the Korean sports agency.
Speaking after the official opening of the WTF’s new office in Lausanne, Switzerland, the federation’s president Chungwon Choue told Sportcal.com that a deal had been agreed with IB Sports for the sale of television and sponsorship rights.
Until now, the Seoul-based WTF has distributed the rights itself, agreeing deals for World Championships in recent years in Korea, Japan and China, plus a Europe-wide agreement with Eurosport, the pan-European broadcaster.
The WTF is now targeting increased distribution, and has also entered into an agreement with the video software group Dartfish for the provision of a web television portal soon to be launched on the WTF’s website.
Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, attended last night’s opening ceremony in Lausanne and praised initiatives undertaken by the WTF in recent years, saying that the sport had changed since its inclusion in the Olympic programme for the first time in Sydney in 2000 from "a rather conservative sport to a very modern dynamic sport."
The improved marketing of the WTF’s commercial rights was included in a 15-point reform programme launched in October 2004 after Choue became president in June of that year.
Choue initiated changes to the scoring system and rules in order to make the sport more appealing to global audiences, including a 10-second rule to encourage athletes to combat more actively and a reduction of the mat size from 12 x 12 metres to 8 x 8 metres to create more action.
A "media-friendly" world ranking system was also introduced, along with new events such as the World Taekwondo Poomsae Championships.
The changes will be implemented at next month’s 2009 WTF World Cup Taekwondo Team Championships in Baku, Azerbaijian.
The federation hopes to improve on the broadcast coverage of the 2005 WTF World Taekwondo Championships, which were aired live on Eurosport and on KBS, the major Korean television network, and the 2007 championships, which were covered live by Eurosport and Beijing TV, the regional Chinese broadcaster, and on a delayed basis by KBS.
The 2009 WTF World Taekwondo Championships will take place in Copenhagen, Denmark, on October 14 to 18.
Choue said that the internet project with Dartfish is presently being finalised, adding that the service would be offered free of charge, because "it is necessary to introduce our sports to the world."
Internet content from WTF competitions will also be distributed to major international broadcasters, he added.
In addition, Choue said that the activities of the new WTF office in Lausanne could lead to more television coverage around the world.
In his opening speech, Choue said that the Lausanne office would focus on international relations, communication and co-operation, in addition to public relations and marketing, as part of a "globalisation strategy," leaving the Seoul headquarters to concentrate on taekwondo development, technical issues and finance.
Other representatives at the launch of the office included Denis Oswald, president of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations, Hein Verbruggen, president of the General Association of International Sports Federations (recently renamed Sportaccord), Christophe Dubi, the IOC’s sports director and Kelly Fairweather, European director of the World Anti-Doping Agency.
The WTF was also keen to stress its work in expanding solidarity programmes for disabled athletes and the under-privileged and its work in developing youth programmes and promoting peace through sport.
Taekwondo has targeted inclusion in the Paralympic Games in 2016 and the necessary negotiations are under way, Choue revealed.
Meanwhile, the WTF is expecting London to bid to host the next WTF World Taekwondo Championships in 2011, as it gears up to host the 2012 Olympics.
Choue said that the bidding process was becoming more and more competitive and that he "expects many bidding cities, I believe including London."
The deadline for bid submissions is the middle of July and the hosting rights will be awarded at the WTF’s general assembly in Copenhagen in October.
Excel London, the city’s multi-sports facility and conference centre located in the Docklands area, is to host the Olympic taekwondo competition in 2012.