International Ice Hockey Federation

Countdown to PyeongChang

Countdown to PyeongChang

2018 Winter Games organizers spreading word

Published 25.10.2017 01:09 GMT+11 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
Countdown to PyeongChang
PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 15: Hee-Beom Lee POCOG President spoke to the media during a Olympic Games PyeongChang 2018 Organizing Committee press conference at the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. (Photo by Matt Zambonin/HHOF-IIHF Images)
It’s just nine months away, and excitement is growing. The organizing committee of the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games addressed media in Paris on Monday.

Mr. Hee-Beom Lee, President and CEO of the organizing committee, and Mr. Jaeyoul Kim, Executive Vice-President of International Relations, were in town to supply information about the hockey competition taking place in South Korea from 10 February to 25 February – and to solidify important relationships during the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.

“One of the main reasons I’m here is to meet with IIHF President Rene Fasel,” said Lee. “I had a very useful breakfast meeting with him, and also met many ice hockey leaders here in Europe.”

Hockey is gaining momentum in South Korea – not just from the upcoming XXIII Olympic Winter Games, but also from the national team’s recent promotion from Division IA to the 2018 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Denmark (Copenhagen and Herning). Head coach Jim Paek and assistant coach Richard Park are former NHLers of Korean descent who are leading the charge.

South Korea will become just the fourth non-European country to host the Winter Games after the United States, Canada, and Japan. The already-completed hockey venues are the Gangneung Hockey Centre (capacity 10,000) and Kwangdong Hockey Centre (capacity 6,000).

This will be the first Winter Olympics in Asia since Nagano, Japan in 1998. The 2022 Winter Olympics will take place in Asia in Beijing, China. It’s part of what South Korean organizers are touting as a new Asian era in sports, with the 2020 Summer Olympics also coming to Tokyo, Japan.

Lee, who noted that the distance between PyeongChang and Beijing is less than the distance between New York and Chicago, emphasized that he remains open to negotiations to bring NHLers to South Korea next year.

“As long as the NHL intends to participate in Beijing, they should also participate in PyeongChang,” Lee said. “I don’t think they’ve made a final decision so far. We still have lots to negotiate. Nothing is concluded until the final conclusion is made.”

South Korea will own the global spotlight in February. This will be the biggest Winter Games in history with 95 participating countries, 102 events, some 6,500 athletes and officials, and more than 16,000 volunteers. A new high-speed railway will transport visitors from Incheon International Airport to Gangneung in less than two hours, and all venues are within a 30-minute drive from PyeongChang’s Olympic Plaza. Cutting-edge technology from 5G mobile networks to humanoid robots providing security and information will be showcased.

Souvenirs are already available, like a 5,000-won commemorative coin featuring ice hockey and plush toys depicting the Olympic mascot Soohorang, a cuddly white tiger who’s considered Korea’s guardian animal. Beyond the events, everything from K-pop concerts to traditional Korean delicacies will spice up the 17-day Olympics. Tourist attractions near Gangneung, surrounded by pine trees and other greenery, include the Terarosa Coffee Factory, the Charmsori Gramophone and Edison Science Museum, and Hasila Art World with an extensive collection of Pinocchio-themed art.

It’s all building on a rich Korean international sports legacy that already includes the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul and the 2002 FIFA World Cup.

The IIHF has coordinated successful hockey test events this year in South Korea. The 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey U18 World Championship Division II Group A (won by Romania) and the 2017 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship Division II Group A (won by Korea) took place simultaneously at the Gangneung arenas.

While much work remains to be done between now and the lighting of the Olympic flame on 9 February, Lee said he’s confident that hockey fans will be in for a treat in a secure, peaceful environment.

“We totally agree between the IIHF and the PyeongChang organizing committee,” said Lee. “We’re in the same boat, heading in the same direction.”

 

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