PyeongChang, South Korea – The International Olympic Committee (IOC) evaluation commission began its official inspection of the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games bid Wednesday. On the schedule today were closed-door meetings to review several themes of the Olympic bid book including vision, venue plans, transportation and environmental issues.
Evaluation Chairperson Gunilla Lindberg and her 14 member IOC team that arrived at the Alpensia Convention Centre for the meetings was greeted by throngs of domestic and international photographers as well as the PyeongChang bid team lead by CEO Yang-Ho Cho.
Meanwhile the city of Gangneung is still recovering from record snowfall accumulations last week of up to one metre. City officials called upon the military to help out and uniformed soldiers were throughout the city Wednesday, clearing sidewalks and intersections. Most roads had returned to normal but some streets had reduced lanes causing slowdowns and snow removal vehicles were working to finish the job in time for Friday’s visit of the evaluation commission.
Gangneung is home to the bid’s coastal cluster where the ice events would be held should the Korean bid be selected. The cluster would also include an Olympic Village and newly constructed Media Centre; two ice arenas would be built for men’s and women’s hockey.
Gangneung City officials believe that transportation improvements due to the Games could double the size of the city to 500,000 residents by 2018. A new rail line and improved highways would shorten the travel times to Wonju and Seoul making it feasible for new businesses to open and for people to live by the sea and commute elsewhere for work.
At the presentations to the IOC, PyeongChang 2018 spokesperson Min-jung Sung explained that the Korean bid has learned that they “win just by bidding”. Failed bids for the 2010 and 2014 games have resulted in expanded venues and facilities in Gangwon province; more international sports events with greater exposure and an increased interest and growth in winter sports in South Korea.
Seven of 13 venues planned for the 2018 Games are already built and tested with international events and additional venue construction including alpine skiing and the short track arena are government commitments whether the bid is won or lost.
Four-time Olympian and PyeongChang 2018 Director of Sport Kwang-bae Kang explained that in order to meet the needs of athletes, the two-cluster plan is “one of the most compact in Olympic history”.
Kang was part of the Korean four-man bobsleigh team at the Vancouver 2010 Games and in light of the luge tragedy at those Games he told reporters that safety will be taken very seriously. He said the track would be designed with speed limits and safety would be put ahead of record race times.
At a press conference concluding the day’s meetings bid Chairman Yang Ho Cho said he was pleased with his team’s performance.
“We delivered what we had and what we prepared and we are very satisfied with our presentation.”
Explaining what he thought was one of this bids strengths over the previous two losses the Chairman said “we have great support from our national government”.
Special Bid Ambassador Jin Sun Kim who lead the bids in 2010 and 2014 explained how venue plans have evolved in the past 10 years. For 2010, few of the planned venues existed and site visits were of empty land with models and pictures.
“The Alpensia area was barren … this time [the IOC] can witness the building and the structures here … we show them that we kept the promises we made in previous bids,” Kim explained.
With the experience of two bids behind them and a well-evolved concept, PyeongChang is in a strong position in the 2018 bid campaign. Considered a close frontrunner with Munich internationally – widespread support domestically has fueled optimism and confidence in Korea. This has caused concern for Korean Olympic Committee President Yong-Sung Park. At the conclusion of the press conference Park stressed to domestic media that they should not write with over-confidence. Speaking in Korean, he told reporters that there “is no evidence” to support a certain victory for PyeongChang.
Park is right, IOC elections of host cities are notoriously unpredictable and often disappointing for perceived front-runners.
Thursday the IOC will leave the conference room and visit venues in the Alpensia cluster where the snow and sliding venues are planned, then it’s back to meetings to cover more themes in the bid book Friday morning.