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S. Korea's PyeongChang recieves favorable evaluation from IOC

PyeongChang, a South Korean town bidding to host the 2018 Winter Olympics, received a largely positive assessment from the International Olympic Committee (IOC)

Tuesday, with a little less than two months before the host city is to be decided.

In a report published by its Evaluation Commission, the IOC said PyeongChang, located about 180 kilometers east of Seoul, could leave a new legacy in Asian sports.

"The Commission believes the legacy from a 2018 PyeongChang Games, building on existing legacies from previous Olympic Winter Games bids, would be significant to further develop winter sports in Asia," the report read.

PyeongChang is running against Munich, Germany, and Annecy, France. From February to March, the Evaluation Commission, led by long-time IOC member Gunilla Lindberg, visited the three candidate cities to inspect potential Olympic venues and overall preparations.

The Evaluation Commission stopped short of giving any one city an edge, saying, "All three candidate cities could successfully host the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, with each city offering its own distinct vision and concept."

The host will be voted on during the IOC General Assembly in Durban, South Africa, on July 6. The candidates will have a technical briefing before IOC members on May 18-19 at the IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

PyeongChang lost to Vancouver, Canada, for the 2010 Winter Olympics and then to Sochi, Russia, for the 2014 Games. Only Japan has hosted Winter Games in Asia, with Sapporo in 1972 and Nagano in 1998.

PyeongChang was also praised for its "very compact" plan for competition venues. PyeongChang has tried to highlight that all of the venues would be within 30 minutes of each other, should it stage the Olympics.

"PyeongChang has made a strong commitment to winter sports through the construction of the cross-country skiing and biathlon venues within the Alpensia Resort," the report read, referring to a winter sports complex in the heart of PyeongChang. It also said PyeongChang's plan to improve existing venues "would assist in further developing a winter sports legacy in Korea beyond the sports traditionally practiced in Korea and in Asia."

PyeongChang's bidding committee said it "warmly welcomed" the release of the IOC report.

"With less than two months to go until the vote in Durban, we are confident that PyeongChang would deliver an unforgettable Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games that have the power to inspire a new generation of winter sports athletes and provide a platform for winter sports to grow and thrive in new areas of the world," said Cho Yang-ho, chairman of the bidding committee.

The Evaluation Commission raised questions over rising tensions between North and South Korea. The two remain technically at war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty. PyeongChang has tried to highlight that despite tensions on the peninsula, South Korea has successfully hosted major sporting events, such as the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics and the 2002 FIFA World Cup, co-hosted with Japan.

"PyeongChang and the region can be regarded as a safe and low-risk environment for the Games," the report said. "The quality of the security agencies is high and proposals made to secure the Games should ensure a safe environment."

The Evaluation Commission also pointed out that PyeongChang's ski jumping site, which would stage the opening and closing ceremonies, needs more work and its $35 million budget "appears to be on the low side."

On Munich, the IOC noted that the German city can draw on its experience of having run major sports events.   

"The Munich 2018 bid has a strong and innovative sustainability strategy with the extensive use of existing and temporary facilities and venue sites which would result in a very low level of permanent environmental impact," the report said.

The IOC commission said Annecy faces some "operational challenges" but its plan could be "a workable model for Olympic Winter Games sustainability." (Yonhap News)

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