Rogge confident Pyeongchang will overcome debt obstacle
SEOUL (Reuters) - International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge is confident Pyeongchang will host a successful Winter Olympics in 2018 despite fears that preparations could suffer as the South Korean town battles mounting debts.
"We are extremely happy not only by the progress of the work but by the fact that existing facilities are being fully utilized," the IOC chief told reporters on Friday at the end of a two-day inspection of the Olympic site.
Despite an increase in sales and visitors since Pyeongchang won the bid in 2011, the main Alpensia resort venue has witnessed a huge rise in debt as only 26.3 percent of vacation homes have been sold because of the economic downturn.
The resort is currently saddled with 919.9 billion won ($844.78 million) of debt and is faced with daily interest payments of more than 100 million won.
With regional officials demanding government assistance to ease the situation, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has said that help would only be provided once the autonomous province had exhausted all possible measures to raise funds.
Sat next to Rogge at Friday's news conference, Pyeongchang Organising Committee chief Kim Jin-sun remained positive when asked about progress at the venue.
"Despite financial issues and other problems, preparations are going smoothly. As you can see, stadiums and highways are already under construction or are contracted to be built," he said.
Rogge added his support, saying: "Koreans have much experience in hosting international sporting events such as the 1988 Seoul Olympics or the 2011 Daegu World Championships in Athletics. I'm optimistic."
($1 = 1088.9250 won)
(Editing by John O'Brien)