Thu, Aug 20, 2015 - Page 18 News List

S Korea Winter Games on track: Bach

‘REAL PLEASURE’:Progress made on constructions led to the head of the IOC to say that he was very confident that events would happen on time and be successful

AFP, SEOUL

International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach speaks during a news conference in Seoul, South Korea, yesterday.

Photo: AP

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach yesterday said that South Korean preparations for the 2018 Winter Games were firmly back on track after initial concerns over construction delays, funding woes and sponsor indifference.

“There has been great progress made since my last visit,” Bach told reporters following meetings in Seoul with organizers of the Games to be held in the mountain resort of Pyeongchang.

“It has been a real pleasure to see how the constructions are coming off the ground and how the operations are making progress,” he added.

He paid particular tribute to Cho Yang-ho, the prominent South Korean business tycoon who took over as head of the organizing committee a year ago and has been credited with orchestrating a turnaround in preparations

The 2018 Games is to be the biggest ever — with a record 102 events — and the first to be held in an Asian nation other than Japan.

After Seoul, Bach was scheduled to fly to Beijing, which only last month was chosen to host the 2022 Winter Games.

The IOC chose Pyeongchang as the host in 2011, favoring it over the German city of Munich and the French Alpine town of Annecy.

However, the project soon ran into trouble and, by the time Cho took over, venues were behind schedule, sponsors were nowhere to be found, and the provincial and central governments were arguing about financing.

As recently as January this year, the IOC was warning that preparations were off the pace, and there were suggestions — sternly rejected by the organizers — that Japan be asked to co-host some events.

Cho, 66, is chairman of the sprawling family-run Hanjin Group, with interests in construction, shipbuilding and commercial aviation. He has managed to address most of the concerns.

All construction has now started and should be finished for test events scheduled for February next year.

“We are now very confident the test events will happen in time and will be successful,” Bach said in Seoul.

Major South Korean companies, such as Samsung and LG, have agreed to support the Games, with automaker Hyundai the latest key sponsor to sign up.

Cho said he is confident that three-quarters of the targeted US$850 million in sponsorship would be committed by the end of this year.

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