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Opposition forces Korean government to drop plan for Olympic venue switch

The Korean government has backtracked on a controversial proposal to stage the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2018 winter Olympic Games outside of PyeongChang.

Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism recently announced a plan to renovate an existing sports centre in Gangneung, rather than building a new facility in PyeongChang, in a bid to cut costs. However, the decision led to protests from PyeongChang residents who threatened to boycott the Olympics if the plan went ahead.

The Korea Times newspaper said key officials leading the preparations for the Games – Culture Minister Lee Jong-deok; Gangwon Mayor Choi Moon-soon; and Cho Yang-ho, president of PyeongChang 2018 – met on Tuesday to address the issue, deciding to press ahead with the original plan to develop a 40,000 capacity venue in PyeongChang.

“The venue for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Games will be built in PyeongChang,” the Culture Ministry said in a statement. “After the Games, the relevant parties will discuss how to make use of the facility.”

The protest group had questioned the government’s commitment to the Games. It said in a statement on Monday: “If the government goes through with the plan to move the opening and closing ceremonies outside PyeongChang, we will stage a boycott of the Olympics. If they were moved to Gangneung, it should be called Gangneung Olympics. It is outrageous for the government to be even considering such a move with only just under four years left until the Games.”