PyeongChang, the host of the 2018 Winter Olympics, has been under pressure since Tuesday, as reports suggest that there is an error in its game plan.
PyeongChang Bid Committee promised in Durban last year that it would connect the country’s major airport in Incheon to the city with a 68 minute-minute travel time during the 2018 Games, but the real travel time could take more than 93 minutes, according to local reports.
The claim came after a report revealed that the government had decided not to build a high-speed railway linking the Gangwon Province city to Incheon International Airport.
The government, however, denied the allegation, noting that it never made such a promise. The Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs said in a statement Tuesday that it never planned to build railroads from Incheon to PyeongChang, but to build new express railroads connecting Gangwon Province city Wonju and Gangneung via PyeongChang.
The PyeongChang 2018 Organizing Committee also denied the suggestion, insisting that it only promised the International Olympic Committee it would build the express railroad between Wonju and Gangneung.
“The claim is falsely reported,” said Sohn Chang-hwan, a director of design and planning venues for the PyeongChang Organizing Committee.
“We never said we would build a bullet-train track from Incheon to PyeongChang, but the media did. The only proposed plan is connecting Wonju and Gangneung with a new express railroad,” Sohn told The Korea Herald.
The official, however, admitted that the proposed 68 minutes was a “rough estimation.”
“The 68 minute proposal was the best possible time that could be. We said that number to persuade the IOC members,” Sohn added.
PyeongChang promised the IOC that it could host the most compact Winter Games. As a part of its proposal, the committee promised to launch a new railroad between Wonju and Gangneung, which will run at the speed of 250 kph before 2017. When it is completed, PyeongChang will be accessible from Incheon Airport within 68 minutes, the bid committee said in its bid book.
But with the current railroad system, it is almost impossible to fulfill the promised time, said an official from the ministry.
“The minimum travel time would be 93 minutes under the current plan, But we’re planning to improve the existing track between Incheon and Wonju, and to reduce the travel time as best we can,” the official added.
Meanwhile, there is also increasing concern over PyeongChang’s proposed venues.
PyeongChang needs to build six more competition venues before 2018, including a new alpine skiing venue. But local environmental groups are protesting against PyeongChang’s proposed venue in Jungbong, since the forested area is currently protected as a nature reserve by the Korea Forest Service.
When asked about the possibility of changing the venue, Sohn said: “No, we have no option. Jungbong is the only place that meets the conditions for international alpine skiing venues.”
By Oh Kyu-wook