Taek­wondo hop­ing to take cen­tre stage in Manch­ester’s month of sport

Sportcal - - EVENTS FEATURE - By Jonathan Rest

More than 250 of the world’s best taek­wondo ath­letes will de­scend on Manch­ester, in the north west of Eng­land, in De­cem­ber for a new event aimed at build­ing on the sport’s suc­cess at the Lon­don 2012 Olympic Games.

The World Taek­wondo Fed­er­a­tion, the sport’s gov­ern­ing body, first an­nounced plans late last year for an an­nual ‘world series’ of Grand Prix events and a fi­nal in a bid to cre­ate more high-stan­dard com­pe­ti­tions for its ath­letes.

The first-ever World Taek­wondo Grand Prix will take place at Manch­ester Cen­tral from De­cem­ber 13 to 15, with re­spon­si­bil­ity for the or­gan­is­ing of the in­au­gu­ral event firmly in the hands of GB Taek­wondo. Steve Flynn, op­er­a­tions di­rec­tor at GB Taek­wondo, said: “This is a new event that we have de­vel­oped with the WTF over the last 12 months. They [the WTF] recog­nised the need for a new event, a new series to build upon the suc­cess of Lon­don 2012. They recog­nised no­body de­liv­ers taek­wondo events like the UK does.

“We are a strong re­li­able part­ner for event de­liv­ery. If we can put on a great show in Manch­ester, we can then use our ex­pe­ri­ence to help other cities next year.

“We want what is good for the sport and for the ath­letes. Wher­ever this event ends up go­ing, to the Far East, Mid­dle East or Amer­i­cas, we want it to be re­ally strong and we can help shape that.”

The WTF’s ten­ta­tive plan is for two Grand Prix events and a fi­nal to be staged in 2014 in cities around the world, with as many as three Grands Prix and a fi­nal in 2015. In an Olympics year, there would be just one Grand Prix and a fi­nal event.

Each Grand Prix will in­volve the top 35 ranked ath­letes in each of the four Olympic taek­wondo weight cat­e­gories for both men and women.

The Grand Prix Fi­nal will take the top eight-ranked ath­letes from each re­spec­tive weight cat­e­gory who will be seeded based on their rank­ing.

Tick­ets for De­cem­ber’s in­au­gu­ral event went on sale on Septem­ber 2 through the event’s of­fi­cial ticket re­tailer Tick­et­mas­ter, and GB Taek­wondo said it is con­fi­dent of a sell-out for all five ses­sions across the three com­pe­ti­tion days at the 2,500-ca­pac­ity Manch­ester Cen­tral.

GB Taek­wondo is work­ing closely with Manch­ester City Coun­cil’s in-house event man­age­ment team on the or­gan­i­sa­tion of the Grand Prix, and has hired com­mu­ni­ca­tions agency Rule 5 and spon­sor­ship agency Sling­shot to re­spec­tively han­dle event pro­mo­tion and se­cur­ing com­mer­cial part­ners.

Flynn ex­plained: “A lot of the em­pha­sis with Rule 5 is on dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing, so­cial me­dia and video con­tent. We are lucky to get a lot of ac­cess to our ath­letes so it makes pro­mo­tion eas­ier. Taek­wondo is in­creas­ingly ap­peal­ing to the youth, so so­cial me­dia is an ob­vi­ous in­ter­est to us.

“The WTF is am­bi­tious to make this is a suc­cess­ful global event, but we are equally am­bi­tious at a lo­cal level. Com­mer­cially, the Grand Prix ini­tia­tive is a re­ally at­trac­tive propo­si­tion, not just from a broad­cast per­spec­tive, but for spon­sors also. This is a new, global event and a chance to get in­volved from the out­set.”

For the WTF, the Grand Prix is an op­por­tu­nity for taek­wondo ath­letes to com­pete at the high­est level on a more reg­u­lar ba­sis in be­tween the bi­en­nial World Cham­pi­onships and Olympic Games.

When the WTF Grand Prix ini­tia­tive was launched, Jean-Marie Ayer, sec­re­tary gen­eral of the WTF, said: “You had the feel­ing [at the Lon­don Olympics] that the ath­letes were the cen­tre of the show. We want to re­pro­duce this in other events. It’s about cre­at­ing a bet­ter show, a bet­ter ex­pe­ri­ence for the ath­letes. We have to move on with added events, and a bet­ter chance for our top ath­letes to per­form be­tween Olympic Games and World Cham­pi­onships.

“We want to in­crease the qual­ity of the ath­letes’ per­for­mances, and get bet­ter TV ex­po­sure. The ob­jec­tive is to take taek­wondo one step higher in terms of ex­po­sure in me­dia.”

The WTF Grand Prix forms part of na­tional sports fund­ing and ad­min­is­tra­tion body UK Sport’s £27-mil­lion ($42.1-mil­lion) Na­tional Lot­tery-funded Gold Event Series, which aims to bring 70 ma­jor cham­pi­onships to the UK to build a strong sport­ing legacy from the Lon­don Olympics.

Es­ther Brit­ten, head of events, UK Sport, said: “UK Sport’s in­vest­ment into this brand new World Series event, through our Na­tional Lot­tery funded Gold Event Series, demon­strates our com­mit­ment to build­ing an out­stand­ing pro­gramme of ma­jor in­ter­na­tional sport­ing events for the UK fol­low­ing the in­cred­i­ble suc­cess of Lon­don 2012.

“The strong part­ner­ship which has de­vel­oped be­tween GB Taek­wondo, the World Taek­wondo Fed­er­a­tion and UK Sport is tes­ta­ment to the huge suc­cess of the sport at the Lon­don 2012 Olympics which cat­a­pulted ath­letes such as Jade Jones and Lu­talo Muham­mad into the lime­light.”

Jones won gold in the women’s 57 kg cat­e­gory and Muhammed won bronze in the men’s -80 kg class for Team GB at Lon­don 2012.

The Grand Prix is one of a num­ber of UK Sport Gold Event Series events be­ing hosted in Manch­ester in Novem­ber, with the Men’s World Squash Cham­pi­onship, UCI Track Cycling World Cup and the Rugby League World Cup fi­nal all on the agenda.

Flynn said that with “so much sport­ing ac­tiv­ity in the city at the time, there will be plenty of cross-pro­mo­tional ac­tiv­ity.”

He added: “We have a great re­la­tion­ship with the two foot­ball clubs within the city [Manch­ester United and Manch­ester City], so we’ll be look­ing to do some [pro­mo­tional] stuff with them too. It helps us that this is such a sport­ing city.”

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