(ATR) With 13 months to go, the world knows little about the 2018 Winter Olympics, the first for Korea.
Gunilla Lindberg at the Gangneung Ice Arena construction site. (ATR)
Amid the myriad of organizational details the IOC Coordination Commission chair Gunilla Lindberg is following, the most unceretainty may be over how to increase public awareness for the Games, whether in Korea or globally.
While venue construction is on course for 2018, it’s not as easy to predict the human behavior behind a surge in interest for the Olympics. Public relations giant Hill and Knowlton is on board to help with the challenge, but there’s still not enough signs of life from PyeongChang to move the needle.
The one year mark to PyeongChang on Feb. 9 will mark the launch of ticket sales and the chance to generate a wave of publicity for the Games.
Test events are underway in this last season before the Games, all seemingly uneventful. That may show the level of preparation is adequate, but difficulties and other issues can help expose weaknesses before the Olympics begin.
International Paralympics Committee President Philip Craven has raised alarm over the amount of attention the Winter Paralympics are receiving. Craven is urging more promotion from POCOG for the Games in March 2018.
Hee Beom Lee, named as president in May after the sudden and now controversial resignation of Yang Ho Cho, is an energetic and enthusiastic leader, but had no experience on this level in sport when he was named. His background as a business executive as well as in the government were factors in his selection.
Lee oversees the organization in PyeongChang but can only be a cheerleader for the high-speed rail line under construction between Seoul and the Olympic venues. The 120km rail line is the responsibility of Korean Rail and is scheduled for completion in July. Running at speeds of 200kmh, the journey from Seoul to the Olympics will be cut from two or three hours to around one hour.
Keeping the PyeongChang Olympics above the political fray in Korea is a must for Lee. The country is in upheaval over the leadership of impeached president Geung Hye Park, a distraction that could overshadow the Games and the launch of ticket sales in February.
POCOG President Hee Beom Lee.(ATR)
Criminal investigations around the Korean president and her associates could entangle PyeongChang. There are reports that Cho’s resignation from POCOG was forced when he refused to make a donation to a foundation run by a friend of President Park.
A certain change in the so-called Blue House could mean yet another new Sports Minister overseeing the government involvement in the Games. Despite the loss of continuity, there generally has been multi-party political support for the Olympics.
The advance of the PyeongChang Olympics may hasten the building of new relations with the Korean Olympic and Sport Committee following the election in October of Kee Heung Lee. The post has been open for some time as a reorganization of the NOC has taken place in the past year.
A new IOC member in Korea means the first time in more than two years that the IOC has an active representative in the country. Seung Min Ryu, 34, a table tennis Olympian, was elected to the IOC in August as a member of the Athletes Commission. The senior IOC member in South Korea, Kun Hee Lee, 74 has been bed-ridden since a heart attack in 2014. Lee still holds the title of chairman for Samsung Electronics, worldwide IOC sponsor.
The activation of Samsung’s sponsorship of its hometown Games could be a boost for the image of PyeongChang 2018. So far the company has not revealed its plans.
Homepage Photo: Getty Images
Written by Ed Hula.
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