Posted : 2012-12-24 16:30
Updated : 2012-12-24 16:30

PyeongChang making swift progress in Olympic preparation

A view of the Alpensia Resort
POCOG President Kim Jin-sun
By Kang Seung-woo

PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, has gotten off to a fast start in gearing up for the 2018 Winter Olympics since it won the right to host the event here for the first time in Durban, South Africa in July 2011.

The county, 180 kilometers east of Seoul, set the cornerstone for the Winter Games by forming the PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (POCOG) in October last year, with former Gangwon Governor and bidding committee co-Chairman Kim Jin-sun at the helm, and it has been engaged in hammering out Olympics-related issues.

"Since bringing the Winter Games to Korea last year, we have laid the foundations and the road map for the successful hosting of the event in accordance with our vision of transforming Gangwon Province into a winter tourism hub in East Asia," Kim said.

Thus far, the biggest achievement for POCOG is that a special act in support of the games was passed by the National Assembly on Dec. 29, 2011.

The law gives POCOG both administrative and financial support from central and local governments and will provide more than 75 percent of the construction and expansion costs for the Olympic venues.

In addition, ground for a high-speed railway designed to make it easier to travel to PyeongChang was broken in June.

New lines will link the central city of Wonju, about 90 kilometers southeast of Seoul, to Gangneung via PyeongChang, and will be connected to existing railways running past Seoul to the western city of Incheon, where Korea's main gateway airport is located.

That means foreign athletes and visitors to the PyeongChang Games can travel conveniently aboard high-speed KTX trains from Incheon International Airport to the Olympic venue without having to transfer.

In terms of the venue plan, PyeongChang has made some changes including sites for the opening and closing ceremonies after reviews by POCOG, which included input from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the International Federations (IFs), and other stakeholders, as well as local residents and organizations to improve the overall experience.

The ceremonies will take place in Hoenggye, a small town within the county of PyeongChang, where the national team trains regularly. Originally, the Alpensia ski resort was to hold the ceremonies.

"The adjustments are inevitable in order to deliver the athlete- and games-oriented concept that we promised in the bid," said the president.

According to POCOG, the area surrounding Gowon will be developed into a major Olympic town. It will be home to an Olympic promotional hall and a traditional market selling Korean food.

PyeongChang's efforts have been hailed by the IOC.

The IOC Coordination Commission, led by Chairwoman Gunilla Lindberg, said in March that PyeongChang's preparation is in good shape.

"It is a great pleasure to be back in PyeongChang," she said.

"I am pleased to report that PyeongChang 2018 has made a full start as an organizing committee. We have met a very impressive team led by Kim Jin-sun.

"We were particularly pleased to see that the Olympic village has already started construction. This is the beginning of a six-year long journey. Of course there are a lot of things to be done. But the legacy plan; they have a fantastic green project and we are very impressed by it and congratulated POCOG."

PyeongChang is moving forward even though the Winter Games are five years away.

In terms of the 13 competition venues, seven already exist for alpine skiing, ski jumping, cross country skiing, biathlon, freestyle skiing, snowboarding and curling. The facilities for bobsleigh, skeleton luge, figure skating and short track speed skating, speed skating and ice hockey will be newly built. A budget of 19.8 billion won ($18.4 million) has been set aside this year for design work, which has already begun. Construction is expected to be completed by October 2016.

Construction and upgrading of the transportation infrastructure has started. A budget of 4.7 trillion won has been allocated for 14 such projects, including the upgrading of the rail link between Incheon International Airport and Gangneung.

POCOG is currently developing its Games Foundation Plan, which along with the Master Schedule and Marketing Plan Agreement, is expected to be submitted to the IOC before the end of the year.

In line with the Master Schedule, POCOG's new emblem and slogan will be unveiled in 2013. This will be followed by the establishment of the basic plans for the ceremonies and the torch relay by 2014. The sale of Olympic merchandise is slated to begin in 2015.

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