Olympics: Thomas Bach `confident` South Korea Winter Games on track

AFP| Updated: Aug 19, 2015, 15:51 PM IST
Olympics: Thomas Bach `confident` South Korea Winter Games on track

Olympics chief Thomas Bach said Wednesday that South Korean preparations for the 2018 Winter Games were firmly back on track after initial concerns over construction delays, funding woes and sponsor indifference.

"There has been great progress made since my last visit," the International Olympic Committee (IOC) president told reporters following meetings in Seoul with organisers of the Games to be held in the mountain resort of Pyeongchang.

"It`s been a real pleasure to see how the constructions are coming off the ground and how the operations are making progress," Bach said.

He paid particular tribute to Cho Yang-Ho, the prominent South Korean business tycoon who took over as head of the organising committee a year ago and has been credited with orchestrating a turnaround in preparations

The 2018 Games will be the biggest ever winter event -- with a record 102 events -- and the first to be held in an Asian country other than Japan.

After Seoul Bach was scheduled to fly to Beijing, which only last month was chosen to host the 2022 Winter Games.

The IOC picked Pyeongchang as the host in 2011, favouring it over the German city of Munich and the French Alpine town of Annecy.

But the project soon ran into trouble and, by the time Cho took over, venues were behind schedule, sponsors were nowhere to be found and the provincial and central governments were arguing about financing. 

At recently as January this year the IOC was warning that preparations were off the pace, and there were suggestions -- sternly rejected by the organisers -- that Japan be asked to co-host some events.

Cho is the 66-year-old chairman of the sprawling family-run Hanjin Group, with interests in construction, shipbuilding and commercial aviation. He has managed to address most of the concerns.

All construction has now started and should be finished for test events scheduled for February.

"We are now very confident the test events will happen in time and will be successful," Bach said in Seoul.

Major South Korean companies like Samsung and LG have agreed to support the Games and automaker Hyundai was the latest key sponsor to sign up.

Cho has said he is confident that three-quarters of the targeted $850 million of sponsorship would be committed by the end of the year.