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  • Olympic Legacy Woes for PyeongChang 2018


    (ATR) Games organizers have responded to mounting concerns about PyeongChang 2018’s Olympic legacy plans.
    Jeongseon alpine course (ATR)

    Despite the IOC’s Agenda 2020 reforms and guidance about legacy over recent years, including co-com chair Gunilla Lindberg’s warnings about the issue in the 12-month build-up, PyeongChang organizers have failed to deliver a coherent plan to utilize some of the venues post-Games.

    Six months after the Games closed, Korean organizers issued a statement Tuesday saying “legacy plans are underway” as PyeongChang 2018 winds up its operations.

    Responding to legacy concerns, organizers confirmed that all 12 competition venues were handed over to Gangwon Province and Gangneung City after the Olympics. They claimed a number of venues have become community centers, recreational sports facilities, and high-performance sports complexes such as the Gangneung Curling Center, Alpensia Sports Park, and Kwandong Hockey Center.

    Specifically, they addressed concerns around the maintenance costs for the Gangneung Oval, Gangneung Ice Hockey Center, and Jeongseon Alpine Center. Also unresolved is whether the forest area should be restored at the site of the Jeongseon Alpine Center “as the central government and Gangwon Province have a different stance on these issues”.
    Gangneung Oval (ATR)

    Only now is a task-force being set up to focus on legacy plans for the venues, PyeongChang 2018 confirmed. The central government has commissioned a feasibility study from the state-run Korea Development Institute to decide whether to provide more subsidies for the province.

    PyeongChang 2018 said in its statement that the central government and Gangwon Province “have agreed to stand by the results of the study so that the host nation and local community can both benefit from the Games”.

    The organizing committee insisted that the Korea Forest Service and environmental groups were willing to restore the hillside and replant thousands of trees on the site of the Jeongseon Alpine Center. They are urging Gangwon Province and Jeongseon County to maintain the alpine venue.

    “Currently, mediation is underway at the government level,” the PyeongChang 2018 statement said.

    With the IOC encouraging Olympic organizing committees to do their legacy homework at the bid stage – PyeongChang has bid three times for the Games – the statement suggested that officials from POCOG have also only recently visited past Winter Olympic host cities in the US, Canada, and Japan. They said this was “to benchmark cases of venues that are generating profit after the Games”.

    PyeongChang 2018 trumpeted improvements in Olympic plans over three successive Games bids – but investment in venues and winter sports infrastructure does not appear to have been matched by the same commitment to deliver a sustainable legacy.

    Instead, PyeongChang 2018 talked about the intangible benefits, saying the Winter Olympics helped contribute to peace in the Korean Peninsula “when tensions were high”, marking “a stepping stone for dialogues between the two Korea”.

    PyeongChang 2018 spokesperson Sung Baik-you put a positive spin on the unanswered questions surrounding Games legacy and a reported “balanced budget” with an estimated financial surplus. However, no figures have been issued by PyeongChang 2018 or the IOC to back this up.

    “As legacy plans are underway to utilise snow sports venues in PyeongChang and ice venues in Gangneung that form a compact compound to benefit visitors from around the world as well as the local community, POCOG aims to create a sustainable legacy that extends beyond Korea as well as the local community,” the spokesperson said.

    Reported by Mark Bisson

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