Olympics give Pyeongchang a warning after probe

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Olympics give Pyeongchang a warning after probe

Pyeongchang, Gangwon, which is bidding for the 2018 Winter Olympics, received a warning from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Thursday to honor the body’s ethical code, following an IOC probe into a possible conflict of interest involving corporate sponsorship deals linked to the city’s bidding effort.

In a statement, the IOC ordered Pyeongchang, about 180 kilometers (112 miles) east of Seoul, to “fully respect the rules of conduct” after two South Korean firms signed sponsorship contracts with international sports bodies led by senior IOC members.

The IOC began its probe last week upon “indications ... of potential conflict of interests” regarding Korean Air’s partnership with the International Skating Union and Samsung Electronics’ deal with the international rowing federation, FISA.

Cho Yang-ho, chief executive of Korean Air, is also the head of Pyeongchang’s bid committee.

“The ethics commission [of the IOC] reminded Pyeongchang 2018 and its related organizations to fully respect the rules of conduct related to candidate cities and issued a warning,” the IOC statement read.

An official with Pyeongchang’s bidding committee said the organizers “will comply with the IOC’s rules of conduct, as we have done all along.”

He insisted that the bidding team had nothing to do with the case and said he “wasn’t aware of” any direct notice from the IOC of the ruling.

Upon the IOC’s decision, Korean Air and the ISU said they have agreed to postpone their partnership until after the vote for the 2018 Winter Games host city in July next year.

Pyeongchang is running against Munich and Annecy, France. The South Korean town lost out in two previous Winter Olympics bids - to Vancouver, Canada, and Sochi, Russia, respectively. The IOC will select the host city by secret ballot at its general assembly in Durban, South Africa, on July 6.

The IOC ruled that Samsung’s deal with FISA didn’t break any rules. The Korean electronics giant is one of the IOC’s global sponsors. But Denis Oswald, FISA’s president and an IOC executive board member, will abstain from voting in Durban, “to avoid a perception of conflict of interests,” according to the IOC.

Pyeongchang, Munich and Annecy will present their case during the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, which opens on Nov. 12. The IOC will inspect all three cities in February to review their facilities, accommodations and transportation.

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