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PyeongChang 2018 moves swiftly to nominate new leader

The PyeongChang Organising Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic winter Games (POCOG) has today (Tuesday) nominated Lee Hee-beom 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.

POCOG said in a statement: “With such a diverse background of experience, he has the administrative capacity, marketing expertise and a wide network among the business leaders and communication skills to coordinate among the various levels of government and different stakeholders – all required to lead the preparation of a complex mega-sports event.”

POCOG will soon hold executive Board and general assembly meetings to officially appoint Lee as the new president, a decision which will then need to be approved by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism.

Cho (pictured) also serves as the chairman of Korean conglomerate Hanjin Group and one of its companies, Hanjin Shipping, is currently facing financial issues. South Korea's largest container carrier last week announced that it will undergo a debt revamp program with creditors in a last-ditch effort to stay in business. Cho will now focus his efforts on the restructuring and stabilisation of Hanjin Shipping.

Cho had served as head of PyeongChang’s bid committee for the 2018 Games and took up the position as president of POCOG in August 2014, succeeding Kim Jin-sun, the former Governor of the region.

He has since become recognised for putting POCOG back on track managing critical issues such as delayed venue construction, a dispute over the location of the Olympic Stadium, criticism over the pace of sponsor recruitment and controversy over the potential movement of venues outside South Korea.

In February, he led the successful hosting of an International Ski Federation (FIS) Alpine World Cup event at the new Jeongseon Alpine Centre, the first official test event for POCOG. Following the test event, the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Coordination Commission for PyeongChang 2018 in March wrapped up its sixth visit to the host of the next edition of the winter Olympics, with chair Gunilla Lindberg upbeat over progress in preparations.

The number of events and the workload for PyeongChang 2018 will soon increase dramatically, with 24 test events set for the next winter sports season. The next test event, the International Skating Union’s (ISU) World Cup Short Track Speed Skating, is scheduled for December at the new Gangneung Ice Arena.

Commenting on his resignation, Cho said today: “For the past two years, I have truly put forward my very best efforts to work with every member of the Organising Committee to prepare a successful Olympic and Paralympic winter Games in 2018. I can proudly say that POCOG has become a strong team, and the challenges we have overcome have allowed us to achieve success at our first official test events this past February.”

He added: “I am confident that POCOG and the new leadership will move forward towards a successful 2018 winter Games. I give my assurances that I will continue to support PyeongChang through to the Games in 2018.”