Pyeongchang 2018 leave Gangwon Province with “massive debts”: Report

Pyeongchang 2018

The host city of  Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, Gangwon Province, has been reeling under huge debts ever since the conclusion of the 23rd Winter Olympiad in February this year, according to reports.

According to a major South Korean newspaper, The Chosun Ilbo, the region is left with massive debts following the Games in February and March with major issues such as “conflict with locals and unpaid wages”.

Choi Moon-soon, the Governor of the Province, has asked for urgent assistance for the central government and said that sporting venues were now sitting unused while running up bills. 

“Most of the Olympic legacies have either been demolished or are gathering dust, causing a tremendous amount of disappointment for local residents,” he told The Chosun Ilbo. “We need urgent financial support from the Government.”

No legacy plans are in place at the Gangneung Hockey Centre and the Gangneung Oval where speed skating took place, as well as the Jeongseon Alpine Centre, said citing reports. The Alpine venue faces demolition while the Alpenisa Sliding Center has been criticised for a lack of use.

Gangwon reportedly needs to pay KR₩20.3 billion ($18 million) to keep the sporting venues open until 2022. However, the Government has refused a request to take on 75 per cent of upkeep costs for fear of setting a “bad precedent” on the allocation of funds.

Other issues are a building subcontractor which hosted a press conference to demand KR₩8 billion (£5.5 million/$7 million/€6 million) they claim to be owed, with this dispute being handled by the Korea Fair Trade Mediation Agency. Plans from Pyeongchang 2018 organisers for a four-story commemorative centre have also reportedly been shelved as the province has demanded a smaller project.

The troubling financial muddle following the Pyeongchang 2018 is in stark contrast with claims made by Christophe Dubi, the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) executive director for the Olympic Games, in July. Dubi has claimed that detailed financial figures showing Pyeongchang 2018 achieved a multi-million dollar surplus would be revealed by next month. He further said that the “final number” would be unveiled at the end of the third quarter of the financial year.

A surplus would represent a remarkable turnaround as the Games were facing a $300 million deficit when Lee Hee-beom took as over as Pyeongchang 2018 President from predecessor Cho Yang-ho in 2016. “What we know is these Games are financially profitable and that is a great thing,” Dubi said.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in was awarded the Olympic Order in gold by IOC President Thomas Bach yesterday for his role in the apparent “great success” of Pyeongchang 2018.

Also Read: Pyeongchang 2018: The most tech-intensive Olympics ever!