Minister wants PyeongChang to be Olympics of economy, culture and environment
PyeongChang, the host city of the 2018 Winter Olympics, will not co-host the games with North Korea, but will be sure to set the best Olympic legacy here, a senior South Korean sports official said Thursday.
At a news conference, Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Choung Byoung-gug ruled out the possibility of co-hosting the Winter Games with the North, noting that PyeongChang would keep its promise to the International Olympic Committee.
“We promised the IOC that we would run the most compact games. We can’t alter our game plan, we’ll keep this promise,” Choung said.
Culture, Sports and Tourism Minister Choung Byoung-gug speaks during a news conference at the ministry office in Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap News)
The culture minister added that the 2018 Olympics should be more than just an international sporting event but an Olympics of economy, culture and environment.
On Thursday, the ministry announced a master plan to host the successful 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, some 180 kilometers east of Seoul.
The PyeongChang bid committee will be reshaped into a local Olympic organizing committee within the next three months, and a special law supporting strategic investment for PyeongChang’s 2018 Games will soon be enacted, according to Choung.
The ministry announced that it will help develop more cultural and entertainment events that can promote PyeongChang’s Games, and create a unique atmosphere during the event.
It also pledged to bring economic development to the region as well as the entire country while preparing for the Games.
The culture minister said the government would speed up the building of a high speed rail link to the Gangwon Province city and upgrade other infrastructure in and around the region.
“When we complete building of the rail link, travel from Incheon Airport to PyeongChang will take just 68 minutes, and from Seoul less than 50 minutes. I’m sure it will help attract more foreign visitors here,” he said.
The ministry also promised that it would run an environmentally friendly Olympics.
PyeongChang has already completed building seven of the 13 required competition venues, including for biathlon, cross country skiing and ski jumping slopes.
But it now needs to build six additional competition venues for the 2018 Games, including a new ice hockey stadium, an Alpine skiing venue and also a sliding venue for the bobsleigh, skeleton and luge.
All the new venues will meet the requirement of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification, an international standards system for green building design, according to the ministry.
“We want to make the venues as sustainable as possible,” Choung said.
The new competition venues will be transformed into a training center, exhibition hall, and multi-purpose center for local residents after the Games. The new ice hockey stadium, for instance, will be relocated from Gangneung to Wonju to be used by local clubs, the ministry said.
Choung also noted that the construction would be a stepping stone for PyeongChang to become a mecca of winter sports in Asia, and further propel Korea to become a true winter sports powerhouse.
“The venues will help upgrade Korea’s winter sports,” he said, adding that the government would continue to invest 550 billion won ($518 million) from 2012 to 2018 to develop Korean winter sports athletes.
The Gangwon Province city was selected by the IOC in the first round of voting ahead of Munich in Germany and Annecy in France on July 6 in Durban, South Africa. PyeongChang, which lost to Vancouver and Sochi for the 2010 and 2014 Winter Games, was bidding to host the Winter Olympics for the third time. The city won 63 of the Committee’s 95 votes, well ahead of Munich’s 25.
It was the first time an Olympic bid race with more than two finalists was decided in the first round since 1995, when Salt Lake City defeated three others to win the 2002 Winter Games. PyeongChang 2018 Games will also be the first time the Winter Olympics is held in Asia since the 1998 Nagano Olympics.
“My heart still thumps when I think about Durban, but now we need to be calm and ready to make a successful 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang,” Choung said.
By Oh Kyu-wook (firstname.lastname@example.org)