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  • Yang Ho Cho, 70, PyeongChang Bid Leader


    (ATR) In the annals of the Olympics, Yang Ho Cho will be remembered as the man who helped PyeongChang win the 2018 Winter Olympics on the third try.

    He died in Los Angeles April 7 at a hospital where he had been treated for a lung illness.

    "The IOC is very sad to hear the news that the former POCOG President Cho Yang-ho has passed away,” says a statement from the IOC.

    “The contribution made by Mr. Cho during his leadership of the organizing committee greatly contributed to the success of the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018," says the IOC.

    Cho was chairman of the Hanjin Group, the Korean chaebol that included shipping companies as well as Korean Air, the flagship airline of South Korea.

    Cho was recruited as bid chair in 2009. With his international experience at Korean Air, Cho was regarded as someone who could bring a new approach to the South Korean campaign for the winter Olympics after two consecutive failures.

    The Korean Air connection made it possible for Cho to use one of the business jets in the airline fleet to ferry bid team members around the globe.

    Bid consultant Terrence Burns thought the experience was akin to flying in the fabled aircraft of Elvis Pressley.

    “I dubbed the plane “Elvis-1” because someone asked me “how did you like flying on Chairman Cho’s plane?” I said, “I feel like Elvis.” So, it stuck”.

    Burns says he was also struck by Cho’s humility. In his blog about the 2018 bid, Burns recounts comments from Cho after a rocky presentation in Zagreb due in part to Cho’s rocky English.

    IOC President Jacques Rogge congratulates Cho at the Durban IOC Session where PyeongChang was elected. (ATR)
    “I got nervous. Even though I am fluent, presenting in English is still very difficult. Listen – I do not need to speak. In fact if I am not good enough, please tell me," is how Burns quotes the bid chair.

    “I don’t need the recognition – I am a busy, successful person. I am doing this bid because the president of my country asked me to, and he said to me “we cannot lose again”. I want us to win too, but I will NOT be a reason that we lose,” Burns quotes Cho.

    By 2011 when it came time for the IOC to vote, Cho’s English had improved greatly. Whether that made any difference, PyeongChang triumphed over Munich and Salzburg.

    Despite the success, Cho was overlooked to lead the organizing committee. Former provincial governor Jin Sun Kim was named chair, but then suddenly resigned in 2014. Cho took over as the OCOG foundered with mediocre marketing revenue.

    Cho reinvigorated the operation and seemed headed toward 2018, on the path to finishing the job he had started in 2009.

    But just two years later, it was Cho’s turn to resign suddenly. At the time he cited business
    Cho with bid consultants Stratos Safioleas and Terrence Burns in 2011. (ATR)
    reasons. But he later confessed that he quit rather than take part in a scheme of kickbacks and favors demanded by the corrupt administration of Geun Hyee Park then president of Korea. She is now in prison.

    Cho had become involved with the Korean Olympic Committee as a result of his work in PyeongChang. He harbored an interest in becoming a member of the IOC. But his Olympic interests faded quickly when his organizing committee tenure came to an end.

    Cho endured scandal throughout his career. In 2000 he was convicted of tax evasion. In 2014 his eldest daughter, then an executive with Korean Air, attracted worldwide attention for berating a flight attendant for serving nuts in a bag to first class passengers instead of on a plate. Besides humiliating the employee, she ordered the flight to return to the gate at JFK airport in New York City. The incident dubbed “nut rage”, led to his daughter’s dismissal and time in jail.

    Cho’s other daughter was accused of abusive behavior toward employees at the company’s offices in Seoul. Cho’s wife faced accusations of physical and verbal assaults upon employees.

    The troubles grew for Cho, who came under investigation for embezzlement and other financial crimes. He was indicted last October.

    Just two weeks ago he was removed from the Hanjin board of directors, but retained the post of chairman, a non-board position.

    The corporate flag of Korean Air as well as the South Korean flag were at half-staff Monday at the headquarters building in Seoul.

    Cho was a photographer, creating a calendar sent around the world each year illustrated with his photos. There was no calendar for 2019

    Reported by Ed Hula. For general comments or questions, click here.

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