At around-table discussion on Aug. 19, 2015, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and WTF President Chungwon Choue, together with officials from both organizations, talked over the state of taekwondo, before the IOC head was made an honorary 10th dan black belt in the art.
After being greeted at the WTF’s new Seoul headquarters – in a prestigious location just west of the medieval Gyeongbok Palace, and just a few minutes’ walk from the presidential mansion, the Blue House – by an honor guard of uniformed members of the WTF Demonstration Team, Bach was taken upstairs for the talks.
“Thank you for visiting us,” Choue said in his welcoming remarks. “On behalf of the ‘taekwondo family’ it is an honor.”
“Thanks for the warm welcome,” Bach replied. “You have visited the IOC in Lausanne many times, so this is the first time to visit you.”
Bach opened the discussion by commenting on the rising status of taekwondo. “I would like to congratulate you; you have really improved the standing of taekwondo in the world of sport and in the Olympics,” he said. “Change is not always easy internally, so we appreciate it.”
The IOC head said that he was impressed by the figures he saw for taekwondo’s growth. “My personal impression from the countries I visit is, when I ask them which is the fastest growing sport in Africa and South America, it is taekwondo,” he said.
He added that the sport’s fast growth in Europe seemed linked to immigrants in European nations. He expressed his interest in the sport’s status among female Muslim athletes, and was informed of progress in this area.
Choue noted that since the WTF had permitted the wearing of the hijab in competition, there had been a huge improvement in the sport’s participation and success rate among female Muslims.
On the issue of migrants, Choue briefed Bach on the WTF’s latest initiative.
“We intend to have a Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation, that will be established in Lausanne,” he said. “We will support people in refugee camps around the world.”
The foundation, once established, will dispatch teams of taekwondo instructors into refugee camps – where there is little to do, especially for the children – and teach taekwondo, thus giving refugees a meaningful pastime, improved physical condition and upgraded self-respect.
Turning to the upcoming 2016 Olympics, the standard of Brazilian taekwondo was raised. Choue briefed Bach on the upcoming Brazilian Open, and also the use of octagonal mats on Rio – smaller spaces than the square rings used in London 2012, which promote better footwork and more intense action.
Bach then turned to the internationalization of taekwondo, a Korea-originated sport. “It is of critical importance for the future of sports to globalize – you have to give access at all points to non-Koreans,” he said. “You have made excellent progress in this area and I hope that, under your leadership, it will continue.”
Choue responded that the WTF’s new Secretary General Hoss Rafaty is an Iranian-American, and the Iranian male squad is now“… the number one men’s team- they are too strong!”