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By Peter Rutherford
LONDON, July 25 While technology's place in soccer continues to divide the game's powerbrokers, the president of the World Taekwondo Federation believes a new high-tech scoring system will cement his sport's place on the Olympic Programme.
After debuting as a demonstration sport at the 1988 Games in Seoul, taekwondo became a full medal sport 12 years later in Sydney. The Korean martial art's spectacular spinning, jumping, flying kicks could captivate the crowd, but it suffered from inconsistent judging and a complex scoring system.
Despite its global popularity, with an estimated 70 million practitioners worldwide, the knives were out for taekwondo and its place on the Olympic Programme seemed to be in jeopardy.
However, WTF President Choue Chung-won told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday the sport had undergone a major overhaul ahead of the London Games aimed at securing its Olympic place.
The introduction of the Protector and Scoring System (PSS), which will automatically measure the strength of a kick to the body and score it, as well as an instant video replay system would ensure the fairest and most transparent taekwondo competition possible.
"I think taekwondo will really benefit from the technology because it will ensure the medals go to the best athletes, not to someone else because of a mistake from a referee or a judge," Choue said.
"This is a wonderful opportunity for us to remain in the Olympics. Not many sports have this kind of technology ... it will help eliminate human error in taekwondo.
"We will have six video cameras watching the games and if there are any human errors by the judges or referees we will correct them immediately."
The system, which had been trialed and tested in competition over the last two years, was demonstrated to reporters on Wednesday by members of Britain's junior taekwondo team on the rooftop of a carpark near the Olympic Stadium.
Whirling, lashing kicks landed, points registered on the computer, President Choue smiled.
"Things must change with the times, and sport is no different, it must follow the new generation," he said.
"This is what the Olympics is all about - transparency and fair competition."
Choue, who received his taekwondo black belt in the Korean army in the 1960's, said any of the 63 countries taking part in the taekwondo competition could win a medal and he would not be upset even if his native South Korea failed to win a gold.
"I'm president of the WTF, so that means I don't have any nationality," he added. "I'm happy that taekwondo started in Korea but now its a truly global sport.
"Taekwondo is Korea's gift to the world." (Editing by Justin Palmer)