Last week in Durban, South Africa, a group of Korean delegates were leaping and hugging each other with joy when the International Olympic Committee finally declared PyeongChang as the host of the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Ermanno Gardella was there too, joining the festive crowd and enjoying the success of PyeongChang’s bid.
“I supported PyeongChang,” said the secretary general of the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation, or FIBT.
The 69-year-old Italian, along with other officials from the sports governing body, arrived in Seoul on Thursday, and they are now in PyeongChang, some 180 kilometers east of Seoul, to attend the two-day general assembly of the federation.
Ermanno Gardella, secretary-general of the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (FIBT)
The officials are, in fact, the first visitors to the Gangwon Province city since it won the right to host the Winter Games.
Speaking with The Korea Herald on Thursday at the opening dinner in Seoul, Gardella said that he was confident about PyeongChang’s bid.
“I was here during the 1988 Summer Olympics. For me that was one of the best Summer Games, so I was confident that Korea can organize a good Winter Olympics,” he said.
Still the popularity of winter sports in Korea is considerably low, compared to other European countries. In particular, Korea has never held a bobsleigh event as there is no bobsleigh track here.
Asked whether he has any concerns for PyeongChang’s Games, he said: “Salt Lake City did not have a bobsleigh track before they hosted the 2002 Olympics, Torino also didn’t have it and as well as Nagano. I’m sure PyeongChang will host a successful event.”
Having successfully bid for the Games, PyeongChang will build a new bobsleigh track at the Alpensia Resort. And the Italian official said he believes the new track will boost the popularity of the sledge sport not only in Korea but also Asia.
“There is already one track in Nagano, and now there will be another one in PyeongChang. With the two tracks, we can arrange a regular competition in Asia,” he said.
“The FIBT is now working hard to develop our sport in countries where it is not yet practiced. So PyeongChang’s successful 2018 Olympics is important as we believe it will boost our sports in Asia,” he added.
Gardella first joined the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation in 1971, and he is still secretary general and one of the longest serving winter sports officials.
Asked whether he will be back here for the 2018 Olympics he said, “I’m retiring next year, but if my heath allows me, yes I’ll be back.”
“But before that I’m looking forward to seeing the first bobsleigh race to be held in PyeongChang,” he added.
By Oh Kyu-wook (firstname.lastname@example.org)