set to unleash next gen of winter sports stars
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[November 09, 2016]
By Peter Rutherford and Ossian Shine
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) -
For figure skating fans Kim Yuna was one of a kind.
Not according to the chief of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
"We have many more Kim Yunas," laughed former government minister
and 2018 organizing boss Lee Hee-beom in an interview with Reuters.
"Kim Yuna was a heroine for the younger generation," Lee said. "But
we have many more ... we have the second and third Kim Yunas.
"With the 2018 Winter Olympics we will have the fourth and fifth,
and many more heroes and heroines in winter sports."
Lee's claim is a tantalizing prospect for winter sport's fans both
in Korea and the world over.
Kim was a trailblazer who single-handedly raised the profile of
winter sports in her homeland and gave the country its first Olympic
figure skating gold when she medaled in Vancouver.
While short-track and speed skating account for 25 of South Korea's
26 Winter Games gold medals, Kim's captivating performance in Canada
brought the country to a standstill and gave rise to a generation of
skaters, skiers and sliders.
Her retirement after the Sochi Games in 2014 saw Korea bid farewell
to one of its few global sporting personalities, but 2018
Pyeongchang Organising chief Lee said there is no shortage of
emerging talent waiting to step into her skates.
South Korea will host Asia's first Winter Games outside Japan from
Feb. 9-25 in 2018 -- in less than 460 days.
The coastal city of Gangue will be used for the figure skating,
curling, ice hockey, speed and short-track skating events, while the
alpine town of Pyeongchang will stage mountain events such as
skiing, sliding and Nordic events.
"Even though Pyeongchang is 400-odd days away our feeling is that
2018 is right around the corner," said Lee, adding that all venues
would be ready in time for the 26 test events to be held in the next
Major infrastructure projects, including a high speed rail link that
will cut travel time between Incheon airport and Pyeongchang to 90
minutes, were also on track, Lee added.
The former trade, industry and energy minister said POCOG was
working hard to raise the global profile of Pyeongchang, an alpine
town some 180 kilometers east of the capital Seoul.
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Picture shows the venue during a media tour. REUTERS/Pawel
"Unlike the Summer Olympics, the Winter Games are usually held in
mountain clusters, so in that sense Pyeongchang is not very well
known around the world, like Seoul or London or Tokyo," conceded
To help raise Pyeongchang's profile, Lee said POCOG was focusing on
promotion in Japan, which will host the next Olympics in Tokyo 2020,
and China, which hosts the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing.
"We had a sports ministers meeting in Pyeongchang at the end of
September between Japan, China and Korea," said Lee.
"(IOC) President Thomas Bach was also there and he announced that in
the sports arena, this is the era of Asia."
Gangwon Province Governor Choi Moon-soon told reporters, to much
laughter, that visitors to the 2018 Games must ensure they arrive in
Pyeongchang and not Pyongyang, the North Korean capital.
He cited the case of Kenyan Daniel Olomae Ole Sapit, who was
supposed to attend a United Nations conference in Pyeongchang in
2014 but found himself being questioned for five hours by North
Korean soldiers in Pyongyang.
"He was regarded as a spy, a somewhat strange spy," deadpanned Choi,
adding that he was also fined for arriving in North Korea without a
"So please remember: $500 and five hours of questioning."
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