By Jonathan Rest
British Taekwondo, the sport's governing body in the UK, is close to sealing a deal with the BBC, the country's public-service broadcaster, for live coverage of the inaugural WTF World Grand Prix event in Manchester later this year, Sportcal has learned.
The Manchester Grand Prix from December 13 to 15 will be followed by three more events in other countries ahead of a Grand Final in 2014, and has been launched by the World Taekwondo Federation as part of efforts to create more high-standard competitions for its athletes.
Sportcal understands that the WTF is in talks with international broadcasters about signing up for the full Grand Prix series, but that British Taekwondo is in advanced discussions with the BBC about televising the Manchester event.
The UK broadcaster has yet to comment on whether it is interested in acquiring the rights.
Taekwondo proved a major success story for Great Britain during the London 2012 Olympics with Jade Jones and Lutalo Muhammad winning gold and bronze medals, respectively, and British Taekwondo is keen to capitalise on the increased interest in the sport with free-to-air television coverage.
Each WTF Grand Prix event will feature the top 35 ranked athletes in each of the four Olympic taekwondo weight categories for both men and women.
The appeal of taekwondo on television has been significantly enhanced by the introduction last year of the Protector Scoring System, or PSS, a transparent method that relies on body protectors that automatically register scoring hits and sense the strength of kicks, thus eliminating human error that was prevalent when judges had to assess power and accuracy themselves.