International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said Friday PyeongChang, the South Korean host of the 2018 Winter Games, has done such a great job in its preparations that he doesn't "see real challenges."
Bach made the remark at a press conference following the conclusion of the IOC's Executive Board meeting at Alpensia Convention Centre in PyeongChang, some 180 kilometers east of Seoul. During his stay, Bach visited the construction site for the Olympic Village and received reports on PyeongChang's preparations for the first Winter Olympics in South Korea.
Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Commitee, speaks at a press conference at Alpensia Convention Centre in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, on March 17, 2017. (Yonhap)
Bach noted PyeongChang's "very good progress," especially thanks to the successful organization of Olympic test events in a wide range of sports such as alpine skiing, figure skating, biathlon and cross-country skiing.
"I don't see real challenges," Bach said when asked to identify any potential obstacles for PyeongChang. "The challenge is to keep determination and not to relax because of the excellent results of the test events, and to further raise the awareness of the Games here in Korea and worldwide."
Bach said the South Koreans will start paying closer attention to the Olympics once the domestic political uncertainty is cleared with the upcoming presidential election.
The Constitutional Court last Friday unanimously upheld the parliamentary impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye, and the election to pick the new president will be held on May 9.
While in Seoul earlier in the week, Bach met with both Acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn and National Assembly Speaker Chung Sye-kyun. The IOC chief said he came away with a "clear impression" that the national support for PyeongChang 2018 remains unwavering.
"There is a great support from the entire political spectrum here in Korea for these Olympic Games," Bach said. "Both leaders see the Olympic Winter Games here as a great opportunity to unite the people here in Korea again, after the great political division your country is going through now. They feel that the Koreans will stand united behind their Olympic team and their athletes, and behind the Olympic Games."
Park was ousted over a corruption scandal involving her confidante Choi Soon-sil. Choi was also found to have attempted to meddle in PyeongChang's preparations, by seeking to award lucrative Olympic construction contracts to a Swiss firm linked to her own businesses.
But Bach rejected the notion that the scandal would affect PyeongChang 2018, saying, "We do not have any kind of information that the organization would be affected by the corruption case."
Bach also declined to speculate on North Korea's possible participation in the PyeongChang Olympics. Instead, he echoed the sentiment expressed by Lee Hee-beom, head of PyeongChang's organizing committee, and said, "These Olympic Games are open to the world and everybody is welcome." (Yonhap)