Pyeongchang’s big­gest chal­lenge is pro­mot­ing the games: IOC

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

PYEONGCHANG:

Pyeongchang’s prepa­ra­tions for the 2018 Win­ter Olympics are on course but South Korean or­ga­niz­ers must step up ef­forts to pro­mote the games world­wide, the head of the IOC’s in­spec­tion team said yes­ter­day.

Gu­nilla Lind­berg, head of the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee’s co­or­di­na­tion com­mis­sion for the games, said her team was sat­is­fied with the progress they saw in their lat­est three-day in­spec­tion visit. Ac­cord­ing to Pyeongchang or­ga­niz­ers, con­struc­tion is on sched­ule for a se­ries of 26 test events sched­uled from Novem­ber to April. They said six new com­pe­ti­tion venues for the games are now 90 per­cent com­plete.

“We saw first­hand the progress of the con­struc­tion projects,” Lind­berg said at a news con­fer­ence. “There is no doubt that the venues will be ready for the up­com­ing test events.”

“My col­leagues and I leave here more con­fi­dent than ever that Pyeongchang 2018 will de­liver great games,” she added. The first test event will be a World Cup snow­board big air com­pe­ti­tion from Nov. 23-26. Snow­board big air will make its Olympic de­but at the Pyeongchang Games. A new high-speed rail line de­signed to link the coun­try’s main gate­way of Incheon air­port with Pyeongchang in less than two hours - will be com­pleted in June and start op­er­a­tions in Jan­uary 2018. Lind­berg said that the big­gest chal­lenge left for Pyeongchang is pro­mot­ing the Olympics across the world. Pyeongchang, a sleepy ski re­sort town in South Korea’s moun­tain­ous east, is a much smaller des­ti­na­tion than Tokyo, which will host the 2020 Sum­mer Olympics, and Bei­jing, which will host the 2022 Win­ter Games.

“The big­gest chal­lenge at the mo­ment is ... how to pro­mote the games over the world, be­cause this is a small place. It’s not Rio de Janeiro and it’s not Lon­don,” said Lind­berg, who added that the up­com­ing test events, which will be tele­vised in­ter­na­tion­ally, will be an im­por­tant op­por­tu­nity to pro­mote the games and show­case the level of prepa­ra­tion. Another crit­i­cal is­sue for Pyeongchang is se­cur­ing the par­tic­i­pa­tion of Na­tional Hockey League play­ers. IOC ne­go­ti­a­tions with the NHL have stalled over the IOC’s de­ci­sion not to pay for NHL play­ers’ travel and in­sur­ance as it has in the past. NHL Deputy Com­mis­sioner Bill Daly re­cently told The As­so­ci­ated Press he felt “nega­tive” about the chances the league’s play­ers will ap­pear for a sixth straight Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Christophe Dubi, the IOC’s ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Olympic Games, said NHL rep­re­sen­ta­tives have agreed to pay an in­spec­tion visit to Pyeongchang later this month, which he de­scribed as a “very pos­i­tive step.”

Dubi didn’t of­fer a firm an­swer on whether the IOC would con­sider al­low­ing the NHL to skip the Pyeongchang Games be­fore re­turn­ing for Bei­jing in 2022. “We def­i­nitely al­ways try to have the par­tic­i­pa­tion of the best ath­letes. It is re­as­sur­ing that NHL is com­ing to Pyeongchang and es­pe­cially look at the op­er­a­tions in Gangne­ung,” he said.

“When it comes to the fi­nal par­tic­i­pa­tion ... there is a date set at Jan. 15 to find an agree­ment,” Dubi said. “Un­til then it will be work be­tween all par­ties in­volved to make sure that we get the par­tic­i­pa­tion of the very best, and that’s for both Pyeongchang and Bei­jing.” The ice hockey tour­na­ment dur­ing the Pyeongchang Olympics will take place at a sta­dium in the nearby city of Gangne­ung. Lee Hee­beom, head of the lo­cal or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tee, said ticket sales will be launched in con­junc­tion with the 1-year-to-go count­down in Fe­bru­ary. — AP

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