An International Olympic Committee (IOC) inspection team has downplayed worries about the pace of preparation for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea and insists there will be no venue changes.
Gunilla Lindberg, heading the IOC’s Pyeongchang Games coordination commission, said on Thursday organisers had made significant progress in venue construction and arranging test events from next year. She added organisers must show more urgency in advancing operational planning and refining budgets.
To compensate for South Korea’s lack of experience in hosting large winter sports competitions, Lindberg said international experts would visit Pyeongchang in coming months to help with test events and other administrative tasks.
Organisers have faced pressure from local groups to spread the games outside Pyeongchang to reduce costs, despite the IOC insisting the current venue plan is final.
They are also having difficulty attracting sponsors, with only five companies having joined up.
Lindberg and Christophe Dubi, the IOC’s executive director for the Olympic Games, were part of the delegation that concluded a three-day inspection trip in Gangneung, a city near Pyeongchang, that will host some Olympic competitions in 2018, including ice hockey, speedskating and figure skating.
“The first test events are less than a year away and POCOG (Pyeongchang’s organising committee) and its partners will need to focus simultaneously on multiple projects over the next year in order to deliver them successfully,” Lindberg said.
South Korean government officials had discussed relocating the snowboarding and freestyle skiing venues in Pyeongchang to a resort in nearby Jeongseon to reduce costs but the plans were dropped earlier this month due to concerns about disrupting the test events for snow sports.
Lindberg stressed there would no longer be any discussions about spreading the Olympic events outside of the currently-defined venues.
“All the venues are confirmed both for the test events and the Olympic Games,” she said.
South Korea held the Summer Olympics in Seoul in 1988, co-hosted the soccer World Cup with Japan in 2002 and staged the Asian Games three times, including last year’s event in Incheon.
However, the public sentiment surrounding big sporting events is no longer unanimously positive because of growing worries over costs, including the burden of maintaining venues having little use after the games.
The South Korean government projects the Pyeongchang Olympics to cost more than 11 trillion won ($A12.5 billion).