August 16, 2011 09:49
The mascot of the IAAF Daegu World Championships, which was unveiled last year as "Sarbi," a lovable and friendly dog derived from an indigenous breed that originates from the region around Daegu, would not have been possible without Ha Ji-hong, a professor at Kyungpook National University. Ha devoted his life to searching for and helping maintain the breed, known as Sapsaree, for over a quarter of a century.
The shaggy-haired dogs were so ravaged by the effects of Japan's colonial occupation of Korea, when soldiers killed them for their warm coats, and the widespread famine of the time that only eight remained in existence by the middle of the 1980s, according to Ha, a geneticist who trained in the U.S.
"I hope that people from around the world will remember the mascot for a long time," said the 58-year-old professor. The Sapsaree was designated as Korea's Natural Monument No. 368, and the mascot was created to resemble the canine by accentuating its long, flowing hair.
A total of 88 different designs were proposed for the mascot, including a bear, an eagle and a pigeon, but the cute Sapsaree held them off. Its agility matches the spirit of the sporting event, while the dog's friendly nature also coincides with the aim of the games to draw people closer together.
"The Sapsaree has been lauded by our ancestors for its ability to chase away demons and bad fortune," Ha said. "We believe [it] will bring good luck to those visiting Daegu from around the world."
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