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Pyeongchang 2018 chief plays down impact of political scandal

Pyeongchang 2018 president Lee Hee-beom has maintained that the involvement of conglomerate Samsung in South Korea’s wide-ranging political scandal will not impact on preparations for the winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, adding that organisers will accelerate its efforts in promoting the event.

Lee Jae-yong, who is standing in as Samsung chairman for his ill father, Lee Kun-hee, was last week arrested over his alleged role in an influence-peddling scandal that has led to the impeachment of South Korea’s President, Park Geun-hye.

In April 2015, International Olympic Committee ‘TOP’ partner Samsung signed as the sixth top-tier domestic sponsor of Pyeongchang 2018. Samsung agreed to support the Pyeongchang Organising Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (POCOG) with a sponsor package valued at KRW100bn (€81m/$87m) to become a domestic partner working in various business areas across the Samsung group.

In August 2014, Samsung extended its worldwide TOP partnership with the International Olympic Committee through to 2020, becoming the IOC’s final existing top-tier partner to commit through to the Tokyo 2020 Games in five years' time.

“Samsung has already committed to sponsoring the IOC and the Pyeongchang organising committee,” Lee (pictured) said today (Tuesday), according to Korean news agency Yonhap. “Even with the recent scandal, I don't think (the Olympic sponsorship) will be affected. We already have the agreements, and Samsung has already donated and has agreed to sponsor (the Olympics). So I don't think it will be affected.”

The IOC has previously highlighted promotion and awareness of next year’s Games as a key concern leading in to the event. Lee said the city will accelerate its promotional efforts both at home and abroad.

“I understand not many people are aware of Pyeongchang,” he said. “Most summer Olympics are hosted by metropolitan cities like Tokyo, Seoul and London. But most winter Olympics are hosted by mountain clusters. But we're discussing with the IOC to have more international promotional activities from now on.”

Lee also added that with the next three editions of the Olympic Games set to be held in Asia – in Pyeongchang, Tokyo and Beijing, respectively – the organising committees for the three events are close to agreeing a co-operation deal.

“We've identified items to cooperate on and we'll produce a joint communique soon,” Lee said. “We're looking into exchanging information, (honorary) ambassadors and experts. And we hope that before Beijing 2022, many countries will use our venues as their training centres.”