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IOC moves to stimulate PyeongChang 2018 preparations

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has established a special joint task force with South Korean organisers of the 2018 winter Olympics amid concerns over the pace of preparations in PyeongChang.

Korea is currently facing tight deadlines to complete venues, prepare for test events and expand its domestic sponsor portfolio. The decision to form the ‘Integration Working Group’ followed a report on the current state of preparations for the Games delivered at an IOC meeting in Rio de Janeiro on Friday by Cho Yang-Ho, chairman of the PyeongChang Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (POCOG). The IOC said the need to quicken the pace of preparations ahead of next year’s test events was discussed, and it was agreed by both parties that a working group should be established.

The working group will bring together experts from the IOC, PyeongChang 2018, the winter international sports federations, the South Korean government and the province of Gangwon. “We still have three years to go, but we lost a lot of time for the first three years,” Gunilla Lindberg, head of the IOC coordination commission for PyeongChang 2018, told the Associated Press news agency. “We can't lose any more time. We need to get everybody to move in the same direction and to take decisions. That has been the problem.”

POCOG last month insisted that preparations for test events due to be staged next year are on track, despite International Ski Federation president Gian-Franco Kasper having voiced his concerns over the current situation. Kasper said that it is “almost impossible” for ski and snowboard test events scheduled for next year to take place. He cited political arguments and proposed venue changes in the South Korean city as the two main reasons that some test events could be postponed. PyeongChang 2018 has been forced to continually deny claims that certain events could be moved outside Korea.

The group is set to contain around 10 people and will meet at least once a month with the ability to make decisions immediately rather than having to seek approval from the IOC executive board or Korean political officials. The first meeting will be staged ahead of the IOC coordination commission’s latest visit to PyeongChang, which begins on March 15.

“This will speed up all the decisions and make our work more efficient,” Cho said. “The IOC is worried that we are not fast enough. We are not delayed. We are on time, but we are not fast enough. We want to speed up.”

The latest development comes just days after South Korean President Park Geun-hye called on more companies in the country to support PyeongChang 2018. Korean-based businesses Pagoda Education Group, Samil Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Youngone Outdoor and KT have signed up as domestic PyeongChang 2018 sponsors. However, PyeongChang 2018’s commercial efforts have been criticised. By contrast, Tokyo 2020 has signed up five top-tier partners for its summer Games – NEC, Fujitsu, Canon, NTT and Asahi Breweries – in this year alone.

Lindberg said she was encouraged by Park’s comments, adding that POCOG’s main priorities are to finalise venues, arrange test events, hire technical experts and recruit domestic sponsors. Lindberg dismissed comparisons to the IOC’s establishment last year of special task forces to tackle severe delays for Rio’s 2016 summer Olympics, but admitted that preparations were expected to progress more smoothly in Korea.

“To host an Olympic Games is a huge undertaking,” she added. “Most of the bidders don't realise how much. There's been a change of the president of the country, a change of the president of the organising committee. We lost a lot of time there.”