Realistic solutions required
The 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics is at a crossroads. Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), mentioned Sunday the possibility of applying the Olympic Agenda 2020 - which includes the co-hosting of some events with other former Olympic host cities - to the 2018 Olympics. Reuters said the IOC is discussing ways to stage some of Pyeongchang’s Olympic slide events like bobsledding in Nagano, Japan, the host city of the 1998 Winter Games.
One of the most convincing reasons for the IOC’s idea of holding some events in another country is the doubts it has over Pyeongchang’s ability to stage the games on its own, as seen in Gangwon Province’s recent remarks about the possibility of giving up its rights to host the games.
It all centers on money. The IOC’s concerns were triggered by the financial conflicts between central and local governments over financing the 130 billion won ($116 million) in construction projects for the Olympic Plaza, which includes the venue for the opening and closing ceremonies. While Gangwon Province, where Pyeongchang County is located, wants 75 percent of the construction costs to be covered by the central government, the Ministry of Strategy and Finance insists on paying only 30 percent. In the tug of war, Gangwon Province blurted out that it could relinquish the right to host the games, which led to the IOC’s suspicions.
A split hosting of the games would translate into a shameful loss of pride for Pyeongchang, which won its third Olympic bid after two failures. As the IOC’s idea could put pressure on the central government to increase its funding for the construction, the problem can probably be solved by a quick injection of money by Seoul. However, abusing people’s taxes without proper considerations of economic feasibility for the sake of pride is not persuasive.
The best way forward for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics Organizing Committee and Gangwon Province is “restructuring” the hosting of the games to a maximum level. If the current crisis continues, Pyeongchang could end up as another example of the “Olympic curse” that befell Montreal and Athens. Pyeongchang must not follow in their footsteps.
The organizing committee must cut budgets for unnecessary projects and give up what it can. Gangwon Province also must remember that the Olympics are not just a badge of honor, but a responsibility. When it has trouble with its finances, it must make rational judgments. The host city must entertain all realistic solutions, including a split staging of the games. JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 9, Page 30