PyeongChang (South Korea), Feb 25 (IANS) With the PyeongChang Winter Olympics gearing up for its grand finale on Sunday, the top organiser said the country’s first Winter Games were financially successful, breaking the conception that major international competitions normally end with high levels of debt.
“As the cashflow of the 2018 Winter Games is healthy, there’s no reason to post a deficit,” Lee Hee-beom, the head of PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games (POCOG), told Yonhap News Agency.
“While 14 trillion won ($13 billion) was invested for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, 12 trillion won was spent on building infrastructure, such as the bullet train and stadiums,” Lee said.
“This should be considered a development fund for balanced growth among provinces, rather than the Olympics fund.”
Lee highlighted that the launch of the bullet train to from the Gangwon province led to a sharp increase in the number of visitors, leading to financial gains.
The committee head claimed that taking such factors into consideration, the actual fund for the Olympics is estimated at 2.8 trillion won.
Organisers said they also raised 1.1 trillion won from corporate sponsorship, which hovered above the original goal of 940 billion won.
“We have 30 billion won of reserve funds, which we still haven’t used even half of,” Lee said.
“On top of that, sales from souvenirs also remained strong. In the first 10 days of the Olympics, the sales from the Super Stores were 30 billion won.
“There’s no reason for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics to close in debt,” Lee reiterated.
Since being named as the host town in 2011, PyeongChang will now complete its journey for the 2018 Winter Games, where a record-high 2,920 athletes from 92 countries participated.
“This was the Olympics that was praised both by the International Olympic Committee as well as athletes and global media,” Lee said.
Leading the organising committee for two years, Lee said he wanted to give up many times, but decided to endure to keep the promise he made to the IOC head Thomas Bach, who asked Lee to keep his position until the end, and prepare for the Olympics with enthusiasm.
Compared to the summer games that are held in major cities, Lee said organising winter events were more challenging in terms of preparing accommodations and transportations, as well as competition venues, considering isolated locations.
“Many snow events were held in Daegwallyeong, a town with a population of around 6,000. It is inevitable to face challenges in transportation and accommodation. A whopping 450,000 visitors came to Daegwallyeong in the Lunar New Year’s holiday alone,” Lee said.
As volunteer workers’ accommodations were distributed in 87 different facilities in 11 neighboring towns of PyeongChang, Lee admitted that there were some problems at the early stage of the competition.
The committee, however, said it still tried to provide support to volunteer workers, including adding 90 more buses.
Lee said organizers also coped well with the outbreak of norovirus, a contagious virus that causes stomach pain and diarrhea, at the venues.
Moreover, Lee said the PyeongChang Winter Olympics was meaningful as it provided an opportunity for the two Koreas to seek reconciliation.
The two Koreas marched together at the opening ceremony on February 9 under the unification flag, and forged a joint women’s hockey team.
“I fully understand that some of South Korean athletes were disadvantaged due to the unification team,” Lee said.
“But until November last year, some European countries were discussing not joining the PyeongChang Winter Olympics due to escalating global tension following launch of missiles by North Korea.”
Lee said by having Pyongyang send the athlete delegation to the South, the two Koreas are now building a peaceful atmosphere, and this also lent support in carrying out the largest-ever Winter Olympics smoothly.
Lee added that PyeongChang and the sub-host city of Gangneung will continue to remain hopeful training venues for athletes preparing for the Beijing Winter Olympics.
The PyeongChang Winter Olympics will officially close on Sunday, with China becoming the host country for the 2022 event.