Dubai: “We owe this to the generations that are yet unborn. We deserve to leave something behind for the future,” Antonio Espinos said with a glint in his eyes.
The President of the World Karate Federation (WKF) was in Dubai last week to announce the hosting of the silver jubilee edition of the World Karate Championship at the Hamdan Sports Complex sometime in November 2020.
These World Championships will be crucial to both the WKF and the UAE in more ways than one. For Dubai, it will mean a much bigger and sharper focus in raising the bar while hosting the prestigious Expo 2020. It will also mean a push for karate in the country and the region at large.
And for the world governing body, this will simply mean the culmination of a dream while pushing the boundaries of karate into new territories.
“Believe it or not, but karate is already big in this region. But these world championships will make our sport even bigger,” Espinos told Gulf News after announcing the biennial competition that is meant to coincide with the golden jubilee celebrations of WKF in a little more than two years’ time.
“What will we leave behind for the generations? We need a legacy and Dubai could well be a part or the start of this legacy wherein an entire generation could look at benefiting from karate,” he added.
Espinos would know better. For more than two decades — he was first elected in 1998 — the Spaniard has been a true crusader for the sport. He was re-elected unopposed as President of the WKF for another six-year term at the General Assembly held at the end of 2016 in Linz, Austria.
The vital cog in the entire process of growth is the entry of karate as one of the five new sports at the next Olympic Games to be held in Tokyo at the same venue of the inaugural Karate World Championships held in 1970. “I am always saying that being at the Olympic Games is not just an achievement for karate, but it is more of an opportunity for our sport. We have to take this as an opportunity, an opportunity that we have been only dreaming about before,” Espinos said.
“Possibly, for the first time we will have access to millions of people watching our sport on television. This is something that only an Olympic Games can do. Hence, it is our responsibility to do all our best and put all our energy to fulfil the aspirations of generations to come and we need to draw on all the benefits. I think we owe it to them,” he nodded.
The organising committee for the 2020 Tokyo Games have gone back in time and decided to host the karate competition at the Nippon Budokan near Chiyoda in the heart of Tokyo — the same indoor arena that hosted the 1970 Karate World Championships. “For us, this is like the completion of a full golden circle. We were founded in 1970 and with the completion of our golden jubilee we would well be ushering a new era for our sport,” Espinos remarked.
“That’s why I am always stressing on the fact that 2020 is the most important year for karate. And the best way to mark the occasion is to look at our future and our ability to inspire a full generation. Luckily, everything is coming together well for us. We are hopeful we will be able to continue and go beyond the 2024 Paris Olympics,” the 70-year-old added.
The 2020 Karate World Championships just after the Olympics will be equally crucial to the growth of the sport. “A lot of that depends on the level of organisation. That will be the key milestone in the development of world karate,” Espinos said.
“Every time we organise this event after every two years we make it a point to set new levels and fresh milestones for our sport. The world is changing very fast and the development of technology makes this event a unique one. I am hopeful that Dubai will meet all our expectations,” the WKF president added.