SEOUL, March 9 (Reuters) - Only a natural disaster could force South Korea’s Pyeongchang to consider sharing Winter Olympics events, the head of the 2018 organising committee said on Monday, moving to quell ongoing speculation some sports could be switched to other cities.
Cho Yang-ho told reporters that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had no issues with Pyeongchang’s preparations and talk of shifting events had arisen from misunderstandings and the media blowing issues out of proportion.
“It doesn’t help our preparations to keep hearing about possibilities of splitting our Olympics,” Yonhap news agency quoted Cho as saying, adding that the speculation was creating confusion and damaging Pyeongchang’s credibility.
“Rather than wasting time trying to convince (the IOC) that we’ll be the sole host of the Olympics, it’d be much better if we could focus on running a successful event.”
Amid concerns Pyeongchang was falling behind schedule, the IOC has turned over more decision-making powers to an integrated working group of the IOC, international federations, central and regional governments and the Pyeongchang organising committee.
International Ski Federation President Gian-Franco Kasper told Reuters last month it was “almost impossible” that ski and snowboard test events scheduled for next year would go ahead.
There had also been reports late last year that the luge and bobsleigh/skeleton events could be switched away from the South Korean alpine town.
The IOC has voted to allow host cities to move events to other towns, or countries, breaking with the tradition of keeping the Games in one location and fuelling speculation Pyeongchang could take advantage of the change.
However, Cho said he had made it clear to IOC chief Thomas Bach in Brazil last month that venues were on schedule and Pyeongchang would be ready for the test events.
“We would only think about a second option if it was impossible to hold events in the designated venues because of a natural disaster,” Cho said.
“It makes little economic sense to share the Olympics.”
Pyeongchang’s preparations for Asia’s first Winter Games outside Japan have been beset by budget issues, with Gangwon Province, where the town is located, at odds with the government over how much of the cost it should bear.
The total cost of the Games is estimated at more than 11 trillion won ($10 billion), with the Alpensia Sliding Centre costing more than 120 billion won. (Reporting by Sohee Kim, writing by Peter Rutherford.; Editing by Patrick Johnston)