Proposal stuns local Olympic organizers

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Proposal stuns local Olympic organizers

The International Olympic Committee’s suggestion on Monday to hold certain events in different cities or even different countries has sparked debate here.

Some argue it would save about 200 billion won ($180 million) as the IOC insists, while others, especially the Pyeongchang Organizing Committee, claim the relocation would have little economic benefit.

At the 127th IOC Session, held Monday in Monaco, 96 members unanimously passed 40 bills, most of which involve holding the Olympic Games in multiple cities. The recommendations are intended to reduce the financial burden on host cities and tear down barriers between cities, nations and even Olympic seasons.

IOC President Thomas Bach previously mentioned the plan, but this time he included the 2018 Winter Olympics Pyeongchang into the proposal.

The announcement came as a surprise to organizers here.

One of the reasons why the Pyeongchang Olympic Games was included in the plan was, in part, due to a dispute between the central government and Gangwon Provincial Government on the Olympic construction budget. Gangwon officials, who fear a deficit after the event, has insisted they will not hold the Olympics if the central government does not provide additional funding.

The venues currently in question are those for sliding, speed skating and the Olympic Plaza for the opening and closing ceremonies.

Sliding sports venues have raised concerns among host cities in the past because they are rarely used after the Games, and the Pyeongchang Organizing Committee hasn’t come up with a solution yet. If its 122.8 billion won Sliding Center is not torn down after the Olympics, it could only be used as training field for the national team, costing 3 to 5 billion won annually.

A speed-skating rink will cost 131.1 billion won, though it is likely to be demolished after the Olympics, and the IOC already has suggested moving skating sports to Japan.

Olympic Plaza is another concern. The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism suggested remodeling the Gangneung Sports Complex as Olympic Plaza, but the idea was rejected and authorities decided to build a new one in Pyeongchang, which is expected to cost 130 billion won.

But if organizers stop construction and use Japanese sports venues, the IOC insists it will save 200 billion won. The central government, Gangwon and the organizing committee are strongly opposed to the plan, saying it doesn’t guarantee benefits, and they would have to share hosting rights.

“All six new sports facilities are on construction,” said Gangwon Governor Choi Moon-soon. “It is impossible to change the venue now.”

But some experts insist the authorities should accept the scheme.

“We can give sliding sports to Japan for some of their summer sports,” said Jeong Hee-jun, a sports professor at Dong-A University. “That will make Pyeongchang a host city for both the winter and summer Olympics.”

BY KIM SIK [bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]




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