From February 9th 2018, PyeongChang in South Korea will be hosting the 23rd Winter Olympics. The countdown is on and workers are putting the final touches to the venues. For South Korea, it’s a chance to seal its reputation as a major sporting event organizer after successfully hosting the 1988 Summer Olympics and co-hosting the 2002 World Cup.
“Passion connected” – that’s the slogan of the 2018 Winter Games. South Korea wants to bring the world the most technologically advanced Olympics in history.
But it is also a chance to celebrate Korean tradition and culture.
The mascots chosen to represent the Olympic and Paralympic Games reflect this.
“The white tiger, Soohorang, is a symbol of protection for our guests, both athletes and fans,” explains Choi Moon-Soon, the governor of Gangwon Province, home to PyeongChang county. The other called Bandaby is an animal linked to our regional tradition: a black bear with a crescent-shaped moon on its chest.
“These will be the most important Olympics ever as we have the highest number of participating countries, more than 100, the greatest number of sports disciplines and a total of 102 medals. We also hope to welcome a lot of visitors,” he tells Euronews.
It’s the second time South Korea is hosting the Olympics – last time was three decades ago for the Seoul Games.
PyeongChang was selected to host the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in 2011 after three consecutive bids. The event will run from February 9th to 25th. The opening and closing ceremonies and most snow sports will take place in PyeongChang’s Alpensia stadium and resorts, while ice sports will be hosted in the nearby coastal city of Gangneung.
“It’s amazing, all the people are super-friendly, there are great facilities everywhere,” says Rupert Staudinger of the British Luge Team who are practicing on site. “They have a lot of volunteers that help us. It’s just great.”
His feelings are echoed by French luge team member, Margot Boch: “The venues are impressive. Everything is well organised when you arrive at the airport, we were warmly welcomed.”
According to PyeongChang Organising Committee spokesman Baikyou Sung, “Our main asset is the distance between the venues. All the sites in Pyeongchang and Gangneung are within one hour of each other. You can, for instance, attend a skating race and then go and see a ski competition one hour away.”
“Our wish is that, after the Games, we can open the sports infrastructures and the five stadiums used for the Olympics to sports enthusiasts and other international ski competitions,” says Ignacio Lee, vice-president of the Korea Ski Association.
The event is an opportunity for South Korea to affirm its position as one of the world’s most advanced mobile nations: the world’s first 5G network services will be on offer at the Games.
“5G technology is very fast, 20 times faster than what currently exists,” explains Oh Sang-Jin, Director General of the Technology Bureau. “The images are very sharp. For example, the bobsleigh athletes move down the track very fast and with 5G, the public is able to share their experience, the sound, the feelings through video.”
Seoul is also hoping the Olympic spirit will help alleviate tensions with its northern neighbour and is prepared to welcome North Korea’s star ice-skating duo who qualified for the Pyeongchang Games.
“Our hope is that with the PyeongChang Games our country will uphold the spirit of peace of the ancient Olympic Games,” Baikyou Sung concludes.