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Lee defends sports background after election as new PyeongChang 2018 chief

Lee Hee-beom today (Thursday) moved to defend his lack of experience in sports administration after being formally elected as the new president of the PyeongChang Organising Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic winter Games (POCOG).

Lee (pictured) was elected unanimously as the new president of POCOG at the committee’s general assembly in Seoul on Thursday. His appointment still needs to be ratified by South Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, although this process is seen to be a mere formality.

POCOG this month nominated Lee as its new president after Cho Yang-ho stepped down to concentrate on his business interests. Lee began his career as a government official in 1972 and served as South Korea’s Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy from 2003 to 2006. He then took on executive positions at various institutions and companies including the Korea International Trade Association, the Korea Employers Federation, STX Energy and STX Heavy Industries. He is currently an advisor of Korean conglomerate LG International Corporation.

Lee is a long-time bureaucrat and corporate executive but did serve as an adviser for PyeongChang's Olympic bidding committee in 2006, and then as the head of the bidding committee for the Gwangju summer Universiade in 2008. After PyeongChang won the bid for the 2018 Olympics, the 67-year-old also served as a consultant for POCOG.

After his election, Lee conceded there are concerns over his sports background but maintained he is the right man for the job. “Having worked as a consultant for the POCOG, I have a clear idea of PyeongChang's Olympic preparations,” he said, according to Korean news agency Yonhap. “I may still be a novice in the field, but I will try to make sure South Korea’s status in the international sports community doesn't suffer.”

He added: “I understand the people are also worried that time is running out. But I will try to make the most of the assets at hand to overcome obstacles and stage a successful Olympic Games.”

Lee’s appointment is set to be finalised after approval by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism within the week. He is expected to begin work on May 16. The first item on his work agenda is a two-day trip to PyeongChang and Gangneung to visit the Olympic venue sites and be briefed on the overall Games preparation.