International Olympic Committee (IOC) chief Jacques Rogge answers reporters' questions at the Lotte Hotel in Seoul /Yonhap
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge said Friday he was impressed by the state-of-the-art facilities in PyeongChang despite the rain that hampered his plan to inspect the city ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics. The sleepy Gangwon Province ski resort is currently hosting the Special Olympics World Winter Games, a competition for people with learning difficulties.
"This is going to be the hub of winter sports in Asia," Rogge said to reporters at the Lotte Hotel Seoul. "It will develop winter sports on this continent."
Rogger later in the day received the Cheongryong (blue dragon) medal, the highest state honor given to sports-related people in Korea, by President Lee Myung-bak at Cheong Wa Dae for his contributions to the Olympic movement.
Jokingly noting that in his home country of Belgium it rains "every second day," the 70-year-old told reporters that he was "extremely happy by the progress of the work," despite missing some facilities in the inspection process due to the bad weather.
"It's nice scenery. It's very well-organized. It's a modern concept of winter sports and I think it's going to be very good for the Games,'' he said
The news conference came on the heels of his very first visit to the city in Gangwon Province in the morning, following a marketing agreement Wednesday that allows organizers to use Olympic symbols and other intellectual property to get sponsorships.
"I definitely see the quality of sports organizations," Rogge said. "Korea has great experience in hosting very-well organized sporting events."
Rogge expected strong support from incoming Korean President Park Geun-hye in the preparations for the 2018 event.
"I am quite sure she will continue to be very supportive. You can't organize the Olympic Games without the support of an enthusiastic government," Rogge said. "We will discuss very much needed state support for the preparation of the Games."
In response, Kim Jin-sun, president of the PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, reassured the IOC head by saying that "preparations were going smoothly."
"Stadiums and highways are already under construction or are contracted to be built," Kim said.
PyeongChang, about 180 kilometers east of Seoul, beat Munich, Germany, and Annecy, France in a bid to host the event after losing two earlier bids against Canada's Vancouver and Sochi in Russia.
With the Special Olympics World Winter Games drawing global attention this year, the city is expected to build more name-recognition worldwide towards the 2018 Games.
Before he left the venue, Rogge reaffirmed what is important in the process.
"The success of the Olympic Games is measured by the happiness of the athletes," Rogge said. "The Olympics are organized for the best athletes in the world."