Korean IOC member sees ‘possibility’ for Pyeonchang bid

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Korean IOC member sees ‘possibility’ for Pyeonchang bid

A veteran Korean member of the International Olympic Committee said on Thursday that he saw the “possibility” for Pyeongchang to win the bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics.

As an IOC team of evaluators began its second day of on-site inspections in Pyeongchang, a Korean alpine town in Gangwon, Lee Kun-hee, the IOC member and chairman of Samsung Electronics, said he liked Pyeongchang’s chances.

“If we try a little harder, I see the possibility [for Pyeongchang’s win in the bid race],” Lee said, according to Samsung.

Lee met with the IOC delegation during its visits to various venues in and around Pyeongchang.

Lee said the IOC evaluators had “a more positive response” to Pyeongchang than in 2007, when Pyeongchang was bidding for the 2014 Winter Games. But when asked if the IOC executive members, who will vote on candidate cities, are giving better marks this year, Lee said, “It’s a difficult and a sensitive question. I think the IOC members will make a sound decision.”

Lee gave up his IOC membership following his conviction of illegal bond transactions in 2009 but was granted a special government pardon in December that year. Upon granting the pardon, President Lee Myung-bak urged Lee Kun-hee to help Pyeongchang in its Winter Games bid. Two months later, the Samsung tycoon was reinstated by the IOC.

Lee Kun-hee, who first became an IOC member in 1996, is one of two Koreans in the Olympic body today. The other is Moon Dae-sung, a former Olympic taekwondo gold medalist now serving on the IOC’s athletes commission.

The IOC evaluation team, led by former IOC Vice President Gunilla Lindberg, started its evaluation Thursday at the ski jumping hill at the Alpensia Resort in Pyeongchang. If Pyeongchang hosts the Olympics, the ski jumping venue, which features a grandstand at the bottom of the hill, will host the opening and closing ceremonies. Officials said the venue can seat up to 60,000 people for those occasions.

The IOC delegation’s itinerary on Thursday included visits to the cross-country skiing and biathlon venues at Alpensia; freestyle skiing and snowboarding at Bokwang Phoenix Park, about 30 minutes from Alpensia; and alpine skiing at Yongpyong Resort, adjacent to Alpensia; as well as visits to the international broadcasting center and press center.

Former Olympic athletes and technical experts were scheduled to hold presentations at these venues. After visiting the ski jumping and adjacent biathlon and cross-country sites, however, an official with the Pyeongchang bid committee told reporters that the IOC delegation banned the press from covering the presentations.

Dozens of photographers, cameramen and writers crowded the presentation at the ski jumping hill, where Oh Kap-jin, a sports marketing professor at Kyungdong University, explained to IOC inspectors how the site would be operated if the Winter Games were held here.

Then as the IOC delegation walked over to the biathlon and cross-country venues, photographers and broadcasting cameramen walked among the officials, much to the visible dismay of Cho Yang-ho, the Pyeongchang bid committee chief, and Kim Jin-sun, a special envoy for Pyeongchang’s bid efforts.

If selected as host, Pyeongchang would run the Olympics in two major clusters: the Alpensia cluster, centered around the Alpensia Resort, would host alpine skiing, ski jumping, luge, bobsledding and skeleton, while the coastal cluster, in the eastern part of Gangwon, would be home to ice events like hockey, speed skating and figure skating.

The IOC delegation is scheduled to give a closing press conference on Saturday. Under IOC rules, the evaluators aren’t permitted to speak with media until Saturday’s press event, and all presentations will be held behind closed doors.

The IOC’s evaluation reports will be made public no later than one month before a July IOC session in Durban, South Africa. While positive reports don’t always guarantee victory for candidates, they are used as a reference for the technical aspects of bids.

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