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  • On-the-Record -- PyeongChang 2018 President J.S. Kim


    POCOG president Jin Sun Kim and ATR editor Ed Hula (ATR)
    (ATR) Around the Rings editor Ed Hula spoke with PyeongChang 2018 President J.S. Kim. They discussed PyeongChang's preparation for the 2018 Winter Olympics and how PyeongChang plans to present its own unique Winter Olympics, the first in Asia since 1998. The interview has been edited for clarity.

    Around The Rings: First, what do you think of Sochi? What is your impression of Sochi, good and bad?

    J.S. Kim: My impression is that Sochi 2014 has great venues and facilities, and the games are being organized smoothly. The weather has been very good here and the Olympic Park has been impressive for the compactness of the facilities and venues, so overall I believe the Sochi Games are being operated and organized successfully. As far as I know, some of the U.S. media said the things that didn't go well in Sochi, but as far as I know, I didn't find anything that didn't go well.

    ATR: How will PyeongChang be different from Sochi?

    JSK: When it comes to preparing the competition during the Games, because we have a certain level of required procedure by the IOC, the Games preparation will not be different from Sochi in PyeongChang.

    But one thing I can mention is, because PyeongChang 2018 has started off with many existing facilities, that is a difference between Sochi and PyeongChang. Also, the size of the Games will be bigger here in Sochi than in PyeongChang. That’s because all the conditions are different in Sochi than PyeongChang, so that’s the little difference I can find between the two Games.

    Still, we have the same concept of two clusters. PyeongChang 2018 presents a more compact Games concept with venues all within 30 minutes.

    ATR: And when you say size of the Games, are you talking about how compact the venues are, how far apart the venues are from each other? Are you saying its bigger here in Sochi, and PyeongChang will be smaller?

    JSK: When I said the size of the games, I said that Sochi 2014 has a huge Olympic Park here in the coastal cluster compared to the mountain cluster.

    When it comes to the PyeongChang Games, of course we have the two clusters, mountain and coastal cluster, but in the mountain cluster, we have the Olympic Plaza and the Olympic Stadium, and also in the coastal cluster, we have a sports complex, so some of the things are divided in the two clusters, unlike here where the big Olympic Park is in the coastal cluster.

    ATR: How can you make sure that there is good Olympic Spirit, a good winter spirit, in the mountain cluster and the coastal cluster with the separation between the two? How will it be a fun and interesting place to be?

    JSK: As far as I know, any Winter Olympic Games but not all had that coastal cluster and mountain cluster because the nature of the Winter Olympic Games. The snow events need to be held in the mountains and the ice events need to be held around the city, unlike the Summer Games, so snow events and ice events are held separately. This applied to almost all Winter Olympic Games, including now.

    The reason we call Gangneung area coastal city is because it has beaches. That’s why we call it coastal city. Gangneung is a city of 230,000 that are living in the city, and also all of the tourist cities are located within 30 to 40 minutes drive from PyeongChang or Gangneung. Gangwong province is kind of a tourist destination for Korean people.

    What I am saying is in the mountain cluster and the coastal cluster, we will develop some of the fun and exciting programs tailored to the nature of its cluster. The mountain cluster has the IOC hotel and the Olympic Stadium, and here in this mountain cluster we will bring the best of Korea to the Olympic Plaza so the Olympic Family and the spectators can enjoy the best of Korea, and also in the coastal cluster we will work hard to prepare for the fun activities and programs for the families in terms of tourism because Gangneung is a city of long tradition, so we can actually relate some of the tourism aspects into our Games.

    ATR: There will be one medal plaza?

    JSK: At the moment, we are planning one mountain plaza, Olympic Stadium, and the best of Korea within the plaza in the mountain cluster. Basically, we are planning to have one Olympic Plaza in the mountain cluster, but still I feel we need to study further on this to create an effective operation and also create some of the cheering atmosphere for the games and close considerations with the guidance of the IOC. We will study this further, whether we are going to have more medal plazas in the coastal cluster. This is not like its going to be the way during the Games, but personally we need to study this further.

    ATR: The media and some spectators have had problems with their hotel rooms with their accommodations here. How will PyeongChang avoid those problems?

    PyeongChang 2018 hopes to bring the "best of Korea" to Olympic spectators (ATR)
    JSK: For accommodation, the IOC requires 24,200 rooms. This means accommodation within a 50-kilometer radius of the clusters. We currently are at the reclassification of the stock that PyeongChang can provide for the client group. As far as the media accommodation, we are planning to build a media village in the coastal cluster. The requirement is 10,750 rooms, so in this media village, we will secure 6,368 rooms and the rest will be secured in the mountain cluster, where we will utilize some of the existing facilities in the mountain cluster for media accommodations.

    We believe this meets the IOC requirement for media accommodation, but we are still in discussion with the IOC and the reclassification procedure is underway to secure further better quality accommodation within a one-hour drive of each cluster. And also in addition, there are private sector accommodations being developed around the area, including hotels. If those hotels and accommodations are completed, we will check the conditions and we will classify the groups to better accommodate everyone after checking the whole stock.

    As I said before, the Gangwon province is a tourist destination, so we don’t expect a big problem for spectators finding their accommodation. Especially for PyeongChang, if the high-speed railway is completed, the travel time between Seoul and PyeongChang will be one hour. When the second expressway is completed from Seoul to PyeongChang, the driving time will be one and a half hours. That means you can make a one-day visit from Seoul to PyeongChang or Gangneung. So tourists can have accommodations in Seoul.

    ATR: Journalists and other people came here to Sochi to hotels where rooms were not ready, where it was impossible for the plumbing to work, where they had no internet service. They were not ready for their visitors. Are you saying PyeongChang will do better?

    JSK: Actually, I’m not in a position to compare our Games to Sochi Games because I don’t know of the details of the accommodations here in Sochi, but all I can say is that our preparation for accommodation in PyeongChang is well underway at the moment and, like I said, PyeongChang is getting closer to Seoul.

    It will be 4 years from now, so all I can say is we will provide the most comfortable environment for the media supported by well-developed information technology for the media. For example, information services will be supported by our high technology. As such, we are working on how to create the best environment for the media.

    ATR: So you are saying hotels will be ready when people arrive for the Olympic Games?

    JSK: Of course the accommodations will be ready for the media. We will build the media village and the coastal cluster with 1,000 rooms and we've already finished the ground leveling process for the site.

    ATR: People still don’t know the who, what, where of PyeongChang. When I tell people where the next Winter Games are, they have no idea where PyeongChang is. Is PyeongChang 2018, the Gangwon province, the national government ready to spend the money needed to tell the world about PyeongChang, or will it be quiet for the next four years? It seems like you have a lot of ground to cover to increase understanding of PyeongChang.

    JSK: First of all, I understand why you ask that question, but in another sense, I wonder why they don’t know of PyeongChang because we've been beaten in bids 3 times before. From my side, I don’t understand why they ask that question, but my answer is that when Sochi 2014 closes, PyeongChang 2018 begins. The world’s eyes will be on PyeongChang.

    This year, we will move our preparations forward and work harder to promote PyeongChang to the world. In that sense, I look forward to your continued attention and advice. We will work hard to engage the world in preparations and we will promote PyeongChang around the world. For example, this afternoon, we will reach 100,000 visitors in the PyeongChang House, and as of yesterday, 500 foreigners applied to become volunteers for the PyeongChang Games. These are only two statistics, but we are working hard to promote the PyeongChang Games. Whenever we have an opportunity around the Olympic movement, we have made a presentation on our preparations. This might be why you ask that question, because over the last three years we focused our efforts on creating the basic framework for overarching preparations, like developmental games, master schedule, and construction of venues and facilities.

    As I said before, our Games preparations are well underway, so from now on, because you gave me this good piece of advice, we will spare more efforts to promote PyeongChang to international media.

    POCOG pres. Jin Sun Kim (ATR)
    ATR: In Sochi, not many Americans or Europeans have showed up. You have to make them want to go to PyeongChang, and you need excitement to sell. How do you create a desire on the part of the world to want to go to the Winter Olympics?

    JSK: That’s exactly why we are working hard on how to actually attract visitors and fans from overseas. South Korea is located in the Oriental world. We can provide the world something different because we have a different charm from that of America or Europe, especially since South Korea has a unique culture and history.

    I think that the fans and spectators from overseas can come to PyeongChang, not only for the competition, but so they can experience things unique to PyeongChang and Korea. This is our basic goal, but we can achieve this goal through various means.

    ATR: Should people be worried about North Korea and the impact of North Korea and relations with South Korea on these Games? Should they be worried about security?

    JSK: We don’t see any large impact on our Games from inter-Korean relations, but I’d like to answer that question another time with other journalists.

    ATR: What are your big projects for 2014? What will PyeongChang hope to accomplish this year to help get ready for the Olympic Games?

    JSK: There are three big projects to focus on this year: first of all, because the details of the designs of the venues were completed last year, we’d like to have construction begin possibly next month. We’d like to start construction on all of the venues, as well as construction of the access roads, so we can complete these facilities prior to 2016.

    Second, since we’re almost at the end of the Sochi games, we need to focus on marketing activities, which includes sponsorships. Marketing activities need to reach full swing this year.

    Finally, we need to have a framework for preparations of culture and ceremonies programs, including opening and closing ceremonies.

    ATR: And the torch relay, will you be having that in Korea? Will it be in North Korea?

    JSK: The torch relay will be included in the cultural program. I have not though that far in advance if it will be in North Korea. There are various possibilities.

    Interview conducted by Ed Hula in Sochi.

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