PYEONGCHANG, Gangwon Province — A panel of the International Olympic Committee praised on Saturday the preparation of PyeongChang’s bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics.
On the final day of the week-long inspection, Gunilla Lindberg, the leader of the 14-member panel, said she was impressed by the progress of the PyeongChang team.
The panel arrived here Monday for an on-site inspection to evaluate the city’s bid.
PyeongChang is bidding for the third time to hold the Winter Olympics, after losing the right to host the 2010 Games to Vancouver, and the 2014 Games to Sochi, Russia.
“We have seen a great progress in their bid from their two previous bids,” Lindberg said in a news conference at Alpensia Resort in PyeongChang.
“We have seen new slopes, ski jumping venue, and also seen the progress in development in winter sports,” she added.
Gunilla Lindberg (L) and Gilbert Felli (R) of the International Olympic Committee's on-site evaluation team attend a news conference in PyeongChang on Saturday after winding up their inspection of the city's bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics. (Yonhap News)
Yet, Lindberg refused to get into details of the week-long inspection, noting that a full report will be made to the public and the IOC members on May 10.
The news conference was the first time that Lindberg spoke to the media during the panel’s inspection. During their visit here, the IOC members held all meetings behind closed-doors, and access to the officials was also very limited, in adherence to IOC regulations.
The head of the delegation added that she was deeply impressed by the strong support of the government, which was exemplified by President Lee Myung-bak and Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik’s visit during the inspection.
“During our on-site visit, it’s been wonderful to see so many people show their support,” she added.
From Thursday to Friday, the IOC team carried out an on-the-ground inspection here, visiting proposed competition venues, including the ski jump, cross country and biathlon venues in Alpensia Resort; snowboard and freestyle ski venues at Bokwang Phoenix Park; and the curling, ice hockey and figure skating venues in Gangneung.
During their trip here, tens of hundreds of local residents turned out on the streets to greet the special visitors, waving dozens of placards saying “Yes, PyeongChang,” and “PyeongChang 2018,” and there were even plastic panels bearing caricatures of the IOC delegates.
The IOC Evaluation Commission said there has been great progress compared to last time.
IOC executive director Gilbert Felli of Switzerland, who has visited here twice before during PyeongChang’s two previous bid campaigns, said that he was particularly impressed with the Alpensia Resort, which was fully completed last year with a $1.5 billion investment.
“We’ve seen new sports facilities, and the Alpenisa is now visible,” he said.
He also added that Korea has now become a powerhouse not only in its traditional gold mine short-track speed skating, but also in other winter sports.
Despite receiving good feedback from the IOC delegates, Cho Yang-ho, CEO and chairman of PyeongChang’s 2018 bid committee, however, was not overly optimistic.
“I can’t say whether I am now optimistic or pessimistic,” said Cho during the press conference. “When it comes to the Olympic bid, you can’t expect the result until the end of the day. All I can do now is to do my best until July.”
PyeongChang is competing against Munich of Germany and the French town of Annecy for the 2018 Winter Games.
The IOC panel visited Annecy last week, and will now head to Munich after a week-long break to wrap up their tours of the three bidding cities. The IOC members will elect the 2018 host on July 6 in Durban, South Africa.
By Oh Kyu-wook (firstname.lastname@example.org