SPORTS

New sports minister visits PyeongChang to check on Olympic prep

By Catherine Chung
  • Published : Jun 20, 2017 - 17:41
  • Updated : Jun 20, 2017 - 17:41
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Yonhap) -- South Korea's new sports minister traveled to PyeongChang on Tuesday to check on preparations for the country's first Winter Olympics next year.

Do Jong-hwan, newly appointed minister of culture, sports and tourism, visited the headquarters of the 2018 Winter Olympics organizing committee in PyeongChang, some 180 kilometers east of Seoul, in Gangwon Province.

The PyeongChang Winters Games will be held from Feb. 9-25, 2018.

After getting briefed on the preparations, Do stressed the importance of the Olympics as the first major sporting event in the new administration.

"Everyone from the central government to Gangwon Province and the organizing committee should come together for a successful Olympics," Do said. "We need to create more buzz for the event so that it will be a festival for everyone from around the world.

Do Jong-hwan, minister of culture, sports and tourism, enters the headquarters of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics organizing committee in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, on June 20, 2017. (Yonhap)

Do also said he will meet with legislators to secure additional budget for PyeongChang.

The minister also said North Korea's participation in the Olympics should help make PyeongChang a "Peace Olympics."

"Hopefully, we'll be able to thaw lingering tensions as we try to bring North Korea on board," said Do, adding he'd discuss with the International Olympic Committee possible ways to ensure the North's participation.

Do said one possible channel may be forming a unified Korean team in women's hockey.

The two Koreas squared off at the International Ice Hockey Federation Women's World Championship Division II Group A competition in April in Gangneung, just east of PyeongChang. South Korea shut out North Korea 3-0 en route to winning the tournament.

Otherwise, North Korean athletes must qualify to compete. Their last chance is in pairs figure skating.

Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik just missed out on the qualification at the International Skating Union World Figure Skating Championships in Helsinki, and will take one more crack at an Olympic berth at the Nebelhorn Trophy in Oberstdorf, Germany, in September. Four last spots will be up for grabs North Korea has won only a silver and a bronze medal in its eight Winter Games appearances. The last medal, a bronze in short track, came in 1992. North Korea didn't participate in the most recent Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in 2014.

After the organizing committee's briefing, Do visited the construction site for the PyeongChang Olympic Stadium, the venue for both the opening and closing ceremonies, and skating arenas in Gangneung, a coastal city lying just east of PyeongChang that will host all ice events during the Olympics.