By Stephen Hong
The organisers of the upcoming world athletics championships tried to limit competitors’ access to religious services in the village where they will be staying, Church officials claimed yesterday.
In the apartment buildings set aside for competitors’ use during the IAAF World Championships, which run from August 27 to September 4 in Daegu, there will be a religious service center with four “prayer rooms” – one each for Buddhists, Catholics, Muslims and Protestants.
But Father Alfonsus Kim Young-ho, pastoral director of Daegu archdiocese, said that “at first the organisers suggested all four religions could use one room and stressed there should not be any religious litugy there.”
He added: “They even asked us not to install any religious symbols in the room.”
As a result, Father Kim said, “the archdiocese has decided not to join in running the religious service center.”
An official of the Daegu Buddhism Association further claimed that the organisers had restricted access for religious media. Local religious people had protested in vain but had at least persuaded the organisers to use “four rooms instead of a common room.”
Reverend Lee Gyeong-woo, director of the Athletes’ (Protestant) Church, criticized the basic concept of running the religious service center as just “a prayer room where clergy do not celebrate any religious service.”
He said that because many of the athletes are Protestant and want to participate in worship, he had decided to rent a building in front of the athletes’ village to “temporarily use it as a church for them.”
But Kim Young-soo, manager of the athletes’ village, explained that the IAAF had asked them “not to disturb the athletes to ensure they get sufficient rest.”