International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach bows to President Park Geun-hye during his visit to Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul, Thursday. Bach is on the last leg of a trip to cities in Asia. / Yonhap
By Jung Min-ho
Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), spoke highly of the preparation for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, at a news conference in Seoul, Thursday.
"After the Sochi Olympics, the eyes of the world will be on you," said Bach, who was elected to succeed Jacques Rogge as head of the IOC in September.
During his first visit to Korea since he became IOC president, Bach, the 1976 Montreal fencing gold medalist, was briefed by the PyeongChang Organizing Committee headquartered in Seoul.
"We are very satisfied with progress made by the PyeongChang Organizing Committee," he said. "We want to congratulate you for what you have achieved so far. You are a great team. You give us great hope for the 2018 Games."
Bach said the IOC will try its best to ensure the success of the first Winter Games in Korea.
"We can assure you the IOC will always be on your side. And we are very confident that you will deliver a great Games to Korea and the world," he said. "Don't hesitate to ask us for advice … we can make a great success."
There will be more opportunities for the organizers and IOC once the Sochi Games are over, Bach added.
"When the Olympic flag is handed over to PyeongChang, you will feel great expectations and great encouragement," he said.
Bach said hosting the PyeongChang Olympics will have a great impact on millions of people in Asia.
"We appreciate so much that Asia is embracing sports. Asia has been giving the sports world a new boost by organizing big events," he said.
"You're setting an example for the expansion of winter sports to Korea and to Asia. You will give opportunities to millions of people to get closer to winter sports.
"Asia has really got the people closer to sports as they realize how sports can contribute to the development of society, how sports can help with regard to education and how emotional sports can unite nations."
Bach said the IOC is also trying to spread the Olympic movement to young people in order to encourage them to participate in sports beyond consuming sports as viewers or computer game players.
"It is a joy of life," he said. "We'd like to teach them how to play sports and how sports can do for their lives."
On a different note, Bach said Sochi will have the "toughest doping test" ever for the Winter Games, noting the IOC will have "no tolerance" of illegal drug use.
The message is expected to affect the PyeongChang Organizing Committee in terms of policy-making for the issue.
Before he became the IOC president, Bach led the German Olympic Sports Confederation.