- Title: 2018 Winter Olympics will be clean says chief
- Date: 8th November 2016
- Summary: MASCOTS AERIAL VIEW OF ALPENSIA AREA, WHERE HOTELS AND BROADCASTING CENTRES WILL BE DURING 2018 WINTER OLYMPICS VARIOUS VENUE STILL UNDER CONSTRUCTION
- Embargoed: 23rd November 2016 09:10
- Keywords: Olympics Winter Pyeongchang Lee Hee-beom clean
- Location: PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA
- City: PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA
- Country: South Korea
- Topics: Olympics,Sport
- Reuters ID: LVA00357L2ZB3
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Pyeongchang's 2018 Winter Olympics contracts are clean and not "contaminated" by outside factors, the Games' organising chief told Reuters on Tuesday (November 8), as South Korea's sporting community is dragged deeper into a political influence-peddling scandal.
POCOG President Lee Hee-beom said he had carried out an internal probe and had found no evidence of any external influence on the contract process.
The scandal affecting South Korean President Park Geun-hye involves her close friend Choi Soon-sil, who is alleged to have used her relationship with the president to meddle in state affairs and wield influence in the sports and cultural communities.
Choi has been charged with abuse of power and fraud while a former aide has been charged with abuse of power and extortion after they helped raise $68 million from dozens of the country's biggest conglomerates on behalf of two foundations, one of which, 'K-Sports', is involved in projects such as building facilities and developing sporting talent for Olympic and Asian Games.
South Korean media have also linked Choi to companies that were awarded lucrative contracts for the 2018 Games, Asia's first Winter Olympics outside of Japan.
Winter Olympics head Lee told Reuters: "I can say that the POCOG organisation and also the contracts within our organisation, were not contaminated, were not influenced by outside factors."
The former government minister for trade, industry and energy, said: "Most of the tenders for procurement were done through the public tender process, which cannot be affected by outside factors.
"Most of the articles quoted in the domestic media were exaggeration or distortion...I have checked internally and found that within POCOG nothing was influenced. And that principle will be maintained until the Games."
Lee took over as POCOG president in May when Hanjin Group Chairman Cho Yang-ho stepped down in order to focus on the management of his troubled shipping business.
While he brought little in the way of sports administration experience to the role, Lee's business ties have helped organisers inch closer to sponsorship targets.
In terms of local sponsorship, POCOG said it had met 83 percent of the total target of 940 billion won ($822 million).
Lee served as Korea's trade minister from 2003-06 and held high level positions at the Korea International Trade Association and Korea Employers Federation. He said his time in government had prepared him for the POCOG role.
"The Olympic Games is not just about sports," said Lee, highlighting the cultural, management, logistical and entertainment issues that face each organising committee.
"When I was a government minister I solved many difficult issues, including a nuclear disposal site," he said. "It's that kind of achievement I think that made me president of POCOG."
The coastal city of Gangneung will be used for the figure skating, curling, ice hockey, speed and short-track skating events, while the alpine town of Pyeongchang will stage mountain events such as skiing, sliding and Nordic events.
South Korea, which hosted the 1988 Seoul Olympics, 2002 World Cup and 2011 World Athletics Championships, will complete the hosting 'grand slam' of major international sporting events when it hosts the 2018 Winter Games.
Only Germany, Italy, France and Japan have previously done so.
Lee said it was imperative that venues from the 2018 Olympics are put to good use after the Games, which was one of the concerns raised by the IOC on a recent visit.
Ownership of 10 of the 12 venues had already been decided and POCOG was in discussions with potential private owners for the other two, said Lee, adding that it would be finalised before the end of the Games.
Venues must not become "white elephants," he said, adding that Pyeongchang could benefit from the IOC's decision to give Beijing the hosting rights for the 2022 Winter Olympics.
"So we are discussing with Beijing authorities to use our facilities as training facilities. And we expect many of the countries participating in 2022 will use our venues as training venues."
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