중앙데일리

Organizers hope to conquer flaws

Pyeongchang organizers hope the IOC committee can overlook natural disasters in the area and see its proximity to North Korea as a positive.

Feb 14,2007
Residents of Pyeongchang line up in the downtown streets last night as the International Olympic Committee’s Evaluation Commission arrived to begin its on-site inspection of the town for its bid to host the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. The inspection will conclude on Saturday. [YONHAP]
It’s Pyeongchang, not Pyongyang. And the leaders of the bid to bring the Olympic Winter Games to Korea in 2014 need to try to prove to the members of the International Olympic Committee’s evaluation team, which arrives today, that the proximity to North Korea is a blessing, not a curse.

Han Seung-soo, left, the chairman of the 2014 Pyeongchang Olympic Winter Games Bid Committee, shakes hands yesterday with Chiharu Igaya, the chairman of the Evaluation Commission. [YONHAP]
The Olympic committee will inspect the city on the East Coast in Gangwon province for four days. They will hop over to Russia’s Sochi later this month and then to Salzburg, Austria, in March.
Pyeongchang hopes its location in Asia, its experience from its bid in 2010 (when it fell second to Vancouver, Canada by three votes) and its strong infrastructure will outweigh any doubts about political instability or nature-related problems on the peninsula, as well as overcome the bids by the two other cities. An International Olympic Committee member from Korea, Park Yong-sung, was pardoned on corruption charges Monday, allowing him to get out of jail and participate in the bid activities this week.
Led by Japan’s Chiharu Igaya, the 16-member Olympic Committee evaluation team arrived in Korea yesterday.
The on-site inspection is one of the last stages in Pyeongchang’s second bid for the Winter Olympics: the evaluators will submit their reports in June and the 107 eligible IOC members will vote on the host city and announce their selection July 5 in Guatemala.
Pyeongchang, located about 180 kilometers (110 miles) east of Seoul in Gangwon province, has had its share of ups and downs in its second bid.
Its bid committee is confident that 2014 marks Asia’s turn to host the Winter Olympics, since the continent has only had two Winter Games ― both in Japan ― since the first Winter Olympics in 1924. By 2014, Europe and North America will have taken turns in hosting the Winter Games: 2002 in Salt Lake City, the United States; 2006 in Torino, Italy and 2010 in Vancouver.
Bahng Jae-heung, secretary general of the bid committee, said the experience of bidding for the 2010 Winter Olympics had also been a huge help.
“At the time, we had no idea what kind of animal the Winter Olympics would be, and we weren’t as organized as we would have liked,” he said. “But we learned then that it is important to have good facilities, accommodations and traffic networks. This is a new beginning for us.”

Since 1997, Pyeongchang, a town of about 45,000 people, has hosted nearly 40 international competitions in alpine skiing, short track speed skating, speed skating, figure skating and snowboarding.
Political instability on the peninsula might be a concern among IOC members, especially after North Korea conducted a nuclear test last fall. But the North’s officials have agreed to fully support Pyeongchang’s bid. Should the city host the Winter Games, the two Koreas will discuss forming a unified team, holding joint practices and marching together in the opening and closing ceremonies. The bid committee officials hope the gesture would help give “a message of peace and harmony in the divided country” to the IOC evaluators.
Not everything is rosy, however. For one, natural disasters have plagued the Pyeongchang area over the last year. When the IOC members visit this week, they will be sure to pound on how well the city is equipped to handle difficult situations.

In the summer of 2006, rainstorms flooded the area, damaging ski slopes, roads and winter sports resorts. The restoration work, which cost more than 100 billion won ($107 million), was completed at the end of October, according to the bid committee. But organizers might not want to let their guard down, because the Gangwon area has been vulnerable to heavy rains during monsoon seasons in summer.
Then, in January, an earthquake hit Pyeongchang’s neighborhood. No injuries or damage to property, including infrastructure in Pyeongchang, were reported. Mr. Bahng said the organizers are prepared to explain to IOC evaluators that the earthquake was an isolated incident.
Last year, Mr. Park, an IOC member and president of the International Judo Federation, was sentenced to 3 years in prison on corruption charges, and was suspended from the Olympic committee. President Roh Moo-hyun pardoned him last week. Gangwon province’s governor, Kim Jin-sun, recently said he hopes Mr. Park can use his old ties to lobby for Pyeongchang within the IOC.
Pyeongchang also faces challenges from its contenders, Sochi and Salzburg.
The IOC selected the three cities as official candidates on June 22, 2006.
Austria is going after its third Winter Olympics, which would tie it with France for the second most. Salzburg was one of the finalists, alongside Pyeongchang and Vancouver, in the bidding for the 2010 Winter Olympics. It was eliminated in the first round of voting after garnering only 16 votes.

For its second straight bid, the Salzburg officials have eliminated venues on the periphery of the city in order to tighten their traffic network for athletes and delegates. Salzburg has also secured a commitment from the central government to pay for any losses that might occur. Another advantage is that eight of 11 venues to be used during the Winter Olympics already host international events regularly, whereas Pyeongchang must construct seven new facilities for its bid.
Sochi, a first-time bidder, also presents a tough challenge for Pyeongchang. Russian President Vladimir Putin is a staunch supporter, and has established the “Federal Target Programme for the Development of Sochi,” which would provide nearly $12 billion in funding for the city’s bid efforts.

When narrowing down the candidates to three last year, the IOC Executive Board evaluated seven applicants in various categories, including general infrastructure, sports venues and governmental support. Pyeongchang and Salzburg scored the highest among all seven in accommodations. Sochi scored better than Pyeongchang for its Olympic Village. The three were neck-and-neck in other criteria.
To jump ahead of its competition with just months left until the announcement of the host city, the Pyeongchang bid committee is hoping to capitalize on nationwide support.
President Roh has publicly pledged his support for the bid efforts. Some business conglomerates, including Doosan, TongYang and Taeyoung, have chipped in with nearly 6 billion won to aid the bid.
The host city will be announced in July during the 119th International Olympic Committee session in Guatemala City, Guatemala.


By Yoo Jee-ho Staff Writer [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]



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