Stage set for successful Olympics

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Stage set for successful Olympics

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President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach, left, answers questions from journalists yesterday at a press conference at the end of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games debriefing in Pyeongchang, Gangwon. [NEWSIS]

PYEONGCHANG, Gangwon - There’s still a few years to go before the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, but its organizing committee is already busy studying hard to make the world’s biggest winter sporting event a success. And the best way to learn is from someone who has already hosted it.

The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics debriefing, held at the Alpensia Resort in Pyeongchang, Gangwon, ended yesterday after a week of discussions.

The event was organized by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and was attended by more than 600 people involved in the Winter Games, including the IOC staff, members of the Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo Olympics organizing committees and the staff from the candidate cities for the 2022 Winter Games: Beijing, Oslo and Almaty, Kazakhstan.

IOC chief Thomas Bach, International Paralympic Committee chief Philip Craven and IOC member Gunilla Lindberg participated in the conference and toured venues being built for the Pyeongchang Games, such as the ski-jumping hill.

Yesterday, media outlets raised questions over issues that the government and the organizing committee have yet to resolve. In Gangneung, for instance, the committee plans to build a speed skating and ice hockey venue, for which construction was scheduled to have started at the beginning of the year. But the Gangwon Provincial Government and the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism are still arguing over the construction costs and how the venue will be used after the Games.

The organizers have said there is no doubt that the venues will be built in time, but if the arenas are completed too late, they won’t be able to hold rehearsal events.

The Sports Ministry has told the Gangwon government not to choose a builder yet, saying the construction costs that have been quoted are exaggerated, and they are also concerned about the high cost of maintaining the facilities after the Games.

But IOC chief Bach said in a press conference that there is no reason to be concerned about building issues.

“I was able to see that the Korean government is fully committed to this Winter Games when I met President Park Geun-hye [Monday],” he said yesterday. “I think people need to consider events like the Olympics as an investment, not as a cost-efficient matter.”

Bach added that the IOC will give $850 million to Pyeongchang, which is $100 million more than was allocated for Sochi. The total projected cost for the Pyeongchang Games is $9 billion.

Kim Jin-sun, president of the Pyeongchang Organizing Committee, didn’t provide clear answers when he was asked about the construction problems but said that progress is being made on the issue.

“Because cooperation between the Sports Ministry, the local government [in Gangwon] and the organizing committee is very important, we are trying to communicate and explain the ideas we have, and we promise that we will prepare this event to the best of our abilities,” he said.

Sochi organizers also gave valuable tips and encouragement to the Pyeongchang committee.

“There are many things that Pyeongchang needs to remember to make a successful event,” said Dmitry Chernyshenko, who was president of the Sochi’s organizing committee. “They first need to develop a strong vision that will lead to a good sporting event that everyone around the world can enjoy.

“In order to do that, they also need to form a strong and efficient organization that can carry out a series of projects by cooperating with diverse groups including business partners and the government.”

“We were able to learn valuable knowledge and to share experiences that would definitely help us make the Pyeongchang Games successful, just like Sochi,” Kim said.

“I think it was a good opportunity for us to show the world that our progress is on the right track. We also promise that the Pyeongchang Games will help winter sports expand into other Asian nations as we have said before.”

BY KWON SANG-SOO [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]




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