IOC accepts Pyeongchang’s refusal to move Olympic venues

The IOC accepted South Korea’s venue plans for the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang on Friday after organizers declined its request to move events to save money.

The International Olympic Committee also warned that timelines are ”tight” and urged organizers to speed up preparations for the games.

”The venue master plan for the Pyeongchang 2018 Games has been finalized,” the IOC and Korean organizers said in a joint statement following a two-day project review by the IOC’s coordination commission.

Last month, the IOC urged Korean organizers to halt construction on a new bobsled, luge and skeleton venue and relocate the events to an existing sliding center in another country. The IOC said the move would save $120 million in construction costs and $3.5 million in yearly maintenance fees.

But the South Korean government and local organizers rejected the proposal. They also ruled out sharing events with North Korea, as proposed by some South Korean politicians.

Under the ”Olympic Agenda 2020” reform package approved last month by the IOC, organizers have the option to hold events outside the host city to save money and avoid white elephants. But the Pyeongchang organizing committee, known as POCOG, chose to stick to its original plans.

”The approval of the Olympic Agenda 2020 recommendations by the IOC created the opportunity for the Korean organizers to propose hosting sports or disciplines outside the host city in order to maximize legacies and minimize costs where feasible,” IOC coordination commission chair Gunilla Lindberg said.

”Since then, both POCOG and their government partners have made it clear that they will maintain their current venue plan. As a result, the venue master plan is now finalized.”

The IOC had said a dozen different bobsled and luge tracks around the world could step in to host the sliding competitions. One option was Nagano, Japan, which hosted the 1998 Winter Games. But moving the competitions to Japan would be a tough sell in South Korea because of the difficult relations between the neighbors over their history.

Lindberg offered a mixed review of overall preparations for the first Winter Games in Korea, saying ”good progress has been made” since the last visit but that ”timelines in a number of areas remain tight, including ahead of test events starting in 2016.

”The Pyeongchang organizing committee and its partners must continue to accelerate their work and reorganization in order to ensure the successful delivery of the venues and related services,” she said.

Cho Yang-ho took over as head of POCOG last year after the sudden resignation of the previous president, Kim Jin-sun. Cho is also chairman of Korean Air Lines. His daughter, Cho Hyun-ah, was arrested last month after delaying a plane because her macadamia nuts were not served the way she wanted in the so-called ”nut rage” case.

”I feel great responsibility to ensure Pyeongchang’s success,” Cho said in Friday’s statement. ”You have my assurances that I am fully committed to the games through 2018.”

The full IOC coordination commission will visit Pyeongchang in March.