The recently completed 2019 FINA World Championships, held in Gwanju, Korea, in July were deemed a huge success for the nation as well as for the organization that oversees the competition.

Lee Yong-sup, the Mayor of Gwanju and the head of the organizing committee for the event, told reporters gathered at the conclusion of the competition that FINA, the international swimming governing body, called the

Gwangju championships “the most successful tournament in its history.” More than 7,500 athletes from 194 countries, including the top American swimmers, participated. Eight new world records were set by the end of the competition.

FINA President Julio Maglione had even more praise for the event. He told reporters: “The venues were excellent, the athletes and media village had top-level standards and the overall management of the competition allowed memorable performances from our stars.” He followed by saying, “The FINA family also appreciated the superb hospitality of the Korean people and the kindness of the Gwangju citizens.”

It was the first time in 33 years that the FINA World Championships was held in Asia, providing an opportunity to showcase Korea as a leader in culture and athletic competitions of global importance, while highlighting Gwangju as a city of democracy, human rights and peace.

Just as significant was the economic success that the games demonstrated to the world’s athletic organizing committees. As The Korea Times noted in a recent article, many cities which have hosted big international sporting events suffer from debt or other financial liabilities after the event has taken place. Gwanju implemented a comprehensive strategy to keep costs low and attendance high. To minimize the risk of economic exposure, and to demonstrate the viability of a different approach to hosting global sporting events, Gwangju decided to use existing facilities, instead of constructing new swimming pools.

“The total expense of FINA World Championships Gwangju 2019 is 224 billion won, which is only 5.24 percent of that of 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics and 11 percent of 2014 Incheon Asian Games,” Lee told The Korea Times. “Most of our game venues are existing gymnasiums where temporary water tanks and platforms have been installed. The main venue, Nambu University Municipal Aquatics Center, has increased its grandstand to match the scale of the mega sporting event.”

“We are very proud that the Gwangju World Championships were done on a much smaller budget than any other competition,” Lee said.