Olympic organizers 'arbitrarily' change game plan
Civic group members walk into the Chuncheon District Public Prosecutor’s Office to file a suit against Kim Jin-sun, former governor of Gangwon Province and president of the PyeongChang Olympic Organizing Committee (POCOG), and Park Se-hun, former chief of Gangwon Development Corporation, for dereliction of duty in managing the Alpensia Resort, Wednesday. / Yonhap
By Jung Min-ho
Residents in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, the venue for the 2018 Winter Games, are up in arms over the organizing committee, known by the acronym POCOG, for ignoring them in some key decisions. These controversial moves included switching the opening and closing ceremonies from the originally planned sites, as well as changing where events will be held.
“The most frustrating problem is that POCOG has been failing to communicate with us,” said Hong Young-ki, a resident of Daegwallyeong, Gangwon Province, in an interview with The Korea Times.
Hong and other locals believe that their show of support impressed the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and helped their town win the games, noting the IOC takes into consideration residents’ reactions when selecting a host city.
POCOG announced several key decisions on July 4. IOC spokesman Andrew Mitchell said, “Following POCOG’s election, the local organizers reviewed their venue master plan and included input from different stakeholders such as the IOC, International Federations, and other important groups. This has led to the changes that were announced on 4 July.”
But many are concerned about POCOG’s plan to create an Olympic Town at the Hoenggye training site where the opening and closing ceremonies will now take place on an 80,000-square-meter plot, 50,000-seat temporary stadium.
The Medal Plaza and the Olympic Information Hall are also to be constructed on this site.
“The decision to change the venue of the opening and closing ceremonies of the games should have been discussed with the local people in advance,” Hong said.
The organizers moved the ceremonies from the ski jumping site at Alpensia to Hoenggye; and unilaterally dropped the plan to build a new railway station in the Alpensia Resort, deciding to use Jinbu Station as the “Olympic Station.”
Part of POCOG’s original initiative was building a new station to enable visitors arriving at Incheon International Airport to reach the venue within an hour.
“It doesn’t make any sense that a project that must have been examined during the process for the Olympic bid has now become unfeasible,” Hong said.
Another major bone of contention lies in the fact that POCOG has decided to build an ice hockey stadium for the men’s competition at the Gangneung Athletic Complex, despite Wonju’s strong request to build it near the city to seek balanced regional development. Although POCOG promised to relocate it to Wonju after the Winter Games, the issue concerning the transfer cost has not been specified and it doesn’t seem likely that the citizens’ grumbles will let up anytime soon. A special act to support the Olympic preparations is expected to be announced on July 27.
“Building the ice hockey arena (in our city) is not just for balanced regional development. By building it here, it will reduce the overall Winter Games budget by 235 billion won (about $235 million),” said a Wonju City Hall official, who requested anonymity. “However, the idea of relocating the stadium after the event doesn’t sound optimal because it will cost approximately 100 billion won. Who’s going to pay for it?”
Regarding the fact that most of the football stadiums built here for the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup have been operating at a loss since the tournament, experts, including Dong-A University professor Chung Hee-joon have pointed out that it is important to come up with specific plans to run the facilities profitably after the games, questioning the huge estimated economic benefits the Olympics will bring.
POCOG quoted the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics & Trade as saying the 2018 Winter Games is predicted to bring some 29 trillion won to Korea and 17 trillion won to Gangwon Province.
After admitting that there has been a lack of communication with local residents in dealing with Olympic issues, Lee Min-sik, PyeongChang Olympics director-general for venues said: “We will try our best to hammer out the pending issues like relocating the ice hockey arena to Wonju and a detailed plan for the event. We promise to take into consideration the opinions of the local people in the process.”
2018 평창 동계 올림픽 조직위원회 김진선 위원장이 지난 4일 유치 1주년 기자회견에서 발표한 개, 폐회식 장소 변경, 알펜시아역 신설 백지화, 아이스 하키 경기장 원주이전 불가 등의 조정 계획을 발표 하자 지역 주민들이 거세게 반발하고 있다.
강원도 대관령에 사는 홍영기씨는 “무엇보다 가장 큰 문제점은 위원회가 평창 올림픽 유치를 위해서 처음부터 함께 협력해온 지역 주민들의 의사를 무시한 채, 독보적이고 일방적인 의사소통을 하고 있다는 점” 이라며 조직 위원회의 일방적인 결정에 반감을 표시했다.
또한, 원주시의 강력한 요청에도 불구하고, 조직 위원회는 아이스 하키 경기장을 예정대로 강릉시에 건설하겠다는 입장을 발표해 원주시민들의 원성을 사고 있다.
이에 대해 원주시의 한 관계자는 “원주경기장 이전 불가 조치는 지역 균형 발전의 모토에 어긋날 뿐만 아니라, 2350억 이라는 막대한 예산 절감 효과까지도 포기하는 것” 라며, 현안에 대한 비상대책 조직위원회를 구성하는 등 경기장 이전을 위한 계속된 노력을 기울일 것이라고 말했다.
또한 전문가들은 전국의 월드컵 축구 경기장 대부분이 2002 한일 월드컵 경기장 이후 적자운영 상태를 벗어나지 못하는 점을 들며, 횡령에 건설할 예정인 대규모의 올림픽 타운에 대한 사후대책 또한 철저하게 마련되어야 한다고 지적했다.
이데 대해 조직위 관계자는 “앞으로는 올림픽 계획에 변화가 있을 경우, 주민들의 의견을 적극적으로 수렴하며, 지적 사항들을 잘 받아들여 성공적인 대회를 치를 수 있도록 노력하겠다”고 말했다.
IOC 홍보지원담당 앤드류 미첼(Andrew Mitchell)은 이번 마스터 플랜 변화에 대해 지역 위원회는 "IOC, 국제경기연맹들을 비롯한 다른 중요한 이해 당사자들의 의견이 반영되었다"고 말했다.