With a little more than 200 days left before the opening of Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, Korea’s preparations for the Games have progressed in a flawless fashion, with all sports facilities being nearly completed.
PyeongChang 2018 will hand out most medals and will have a record number of participating players, said President & CEO Lee Hee-beom of the PyeongChang Organizing Committee. About 6,500 athletes from 95 countries are expected to participate. A total of 102 gold medals are up for grabs, becoming the first-ever Winter Olympics with more than 100 gold medals. The following are excerpts of a written interview between NewsWorld and President Lee in which he spoke of the organizing committee’s preparations for the hosting of the Olympic Games.
Dignitaries participate in a ceremony to open a public relations pavilion in Japan designed to promote the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. The event was sponsored jointly by the Gangwon-do provincial government and the Organizing Committee of the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, and the Visit Korea Committee.
Question: Will you tell our readers about the current status of the construction of the sport facilities of the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018?
Answer: It may safely be said that all sport facilities have been completed 100 percent. Ice sport facilities in Gangneung are showing 100 percent in a rate of progress. Snow sport facilities in Jeongseon, Bogwang, Yongpyeong, and Alpensia are completed, but one stand and sound facilities are under construction. Looking at support facilities, accommodation facilities have been finished, and the construction of the venues of the opening and closing ceremonies are under way with completion slated for September. Moving is to be done for a broadcasting center, now dedicated. Finishing touches are given on the athletes’ village and media village.
Q: Will you touch on plans to make the hosting of the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 a success?
A: Olympic Winter Games have taken place on 23 occasions. Eleven countries hosted Winter Olympics. Europe took a lion’s share with eight. Three other hosts were the United States, Canada and Japan.
The Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 will be the largest-ever in terms of Winter Olympic medals and participating players. About 6,500 athletes from 95 countries are expected to participate in the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. About 2,940 players participated, a previous record high in Winter Olympic history. A total of 102 gold medals are up for grabs during the Games, becoming the first Winter Olympics with more than 200 gold medals in Olympic history.
As the saying goes, a successful Olympics means the colors of a rainbow, seven colors need to be presented in each’s unique fashion. The Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 should be presented as an economical Olympics, cultural Olympics, and peace Olympics that goes beyond sports. A record card (a medal standing) is important, as Korea the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympic Games and 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea-Japan were evaluated as success stories. Korea rose to the top four in the world soccer competition. The nation aims to rise to top four at Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.
Q: Will you elaborate on the construction of such infrastructure as a high-speed railroad and an expressway connecting Seoul and Gangneung?
A: In reality, PyeongChang, the venue of the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, lacks accessibility due to insufficient infrastructure. But a high-speed railway linking Wonju and Gangneung will be put into service in December so that people from Korea and around the world can have easy access to PyeongChang. If the high-speed railway is completed, it will take 90 minutes and 112 minutes for people to travel from Incheon International Airport to PyeongChang and from the airport to Gangneung, respectively.
Overland, the opening of the 2nd Yeongdong Expressway has been easing traffic problems. Currently, ongoing projects to improve roads have caused some traffic snarls, but they are expected to be resolved by the end of this year.
In order to improve access to sport venues, such roads as the National Road Nos. 59 and 6 are under construction. They are to be dedicated by the end of the year with 16 access circular traffic networks.
A fireworks festival took place at the Chuncheon Station area on July 22 to celebrate the D-200 countdown. In just 200 days, the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 will be opened.
Q: How do you cope with such issues as accommodation facilities and transportation among host cities and sport arenas?
A: We’re doing our best in providing conveniences and comfort for visitors so that they do not experience inconveniences. About 21,000 accommodation rooms for clients, demanded by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), had been secured and allotted. We got the nod on the matter in June 2016.
Accommodation facilities in cities and counties within a one-hour drive, including host cities — PyeongChang, Gangneung, Jeongseon — will be utilized to accommodate spectators expected to come during the Olympic period. In cooperation with the Gangwon provincial government, we’re implementing projects to improve the environment of accommodation businesses and educate accommodation employees on their service mindset. Our committee plans to provide free bus services and free parking tickets for transfer rides to all Olympic sport spectators in order to boost the Olympic mood and improve access to sport facilities.
The provincial government is considering plans to operate shuttles for the general public of host cities in connection with our organizing committee’s transportation plans. Transportation services the host cities will provide are offered in consideration of easy access to sport venues, city and county centers and accommodation facilities in downtown cities.
President & CEO Lee Hee-beom of the Organizing Committee of the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 and Gov. Choi Moon-soon of Gangwon-do attend a ceremony to sign an MOU among the Organizing Committee of the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, the Gangwon provincial government, the International Cheer Union, and the Korea Cheerleading Association to promote the Olympics and the tourism industry of the province at the Alpensia Resort on July 7.
Q: How will sport facilities be used after the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018?
A: We have to build all sport facilities for the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 since the Olympic Games will take place outside of major cities. Temporarily, the sports facilities will be utilized as training grounds for Korean athletes which will participate in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games. The makeshift facilities for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games will be torn down after the Olympics.
Who will be responsible for the operation of nine out of the 12 sport facilities has been determined, but the remaining three has not. The central government needs to play a role in solving the issue. We will discuss how to address the issue with the IOC, the central government and the provincial government.
Job security of employees with the Organizing Committee is also a pending issue on top of the issue of utilizing sport facilities after the Olympics. Half of the employees with the Organizing Committee, about 600, are public servants. The remaining 600 worry about their future after the Olympic Games are over. This is a task the Organizing Committee will have to tackle. The Organizing Committee is striving to help them get a job in the private and public sectors or overseas. Job offers come from 13 global sponsors. Some employees of the Organizing Committee will be hired by the Organizing Committee of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games.
A bird-eye view of the main stadium of of the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018.
Q: Can you explain your committee’s efforts to publicize the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018?
A: The Organizing Committee has set up “Experience the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018” zones in major airports and stations, including Incheon International Airport. Seoul Railroad Station has opened an outlet to sell products related to the Olympics. An Olympic torch relay will cover all corners across the nation for 100 days from Nov. 1, boosting the festive mood in earnest. Volunteering activities are also expected to play a bigger role in leveling up the Olympic fever.
We’re seeking to implement projects to publicize the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 with the Tokyo and Beijing Olympic Organizing Committees to publicize the upcoming Olympic Games abroad. For instance, we’re considering commissioning friendly ambassadors for reciprocal mission among the three countries and holding exhibitions.
The Korea Festival, which took place in London recently, attracted keen attention from Europeans. Our organizing committee’s publicizing of the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 was part of the festival.
Our organizing committee offers a package of PR materials to foreign institutions, including videos and leaflets, which are available in six foreign languages. We’re operating booths to promote the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 at global exhibitions and fairs in cooperation with the Korean Culture Centers stationed in foreign countries.