Sports leaders call on new president to ensure successful Winter Olympics

Mia Lee, May 10, 2017, 10:29 a.m.

Leaders of South Korean sports on Wednesday urged new President Moon Jae-in to help ensure the successful staging of the country's first Winter Olympics next year. The preparations for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games weren't immune from the massive political scandal that led to the ouster and arrest of former President Park Geun-hye, and to the earlier-than-expected presidential election to vote on the next chief executive.

During their investigation into the influence-peddling scandal, prosecutors said Park sought to award lucrative Winter Olympic construction deals to a Swiss firm linked to businesses of Choi Soon-sil, her long-time confidante.

PyeongChang's organizing committee scrambled to deny any illicit connection between Choi and its Olympic preparations. And with the new leader set to preside over the 2018 Olympics -- had Park stayed in office, she still would have been president during PyeongChang's opening ceremony on Feb. 9 next year --Lee Hee-beom, the chief organizer for PyeongChang 2018, said it's time to turn over a new leaf.

"The priority for the new government will be to bring the divided country together," Lee said. "In the past, the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics and the 2002 FIFA World Cup did just that. I think the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics will be a great opportunity to do the same. Under the new leadership, I believe PyeongChang 2018 will be a success."

Lee Kee-heung, president of the Korean Sport and Olympic Committee, also said ensuring the success of the Winter Olympics is a critical task for Moon.

Lee also asked for more transparency in sports.

"With the support and cooperation from the new president and new government, I believe we can create a healthy and future-oriented sports culture," Lee said. "Further, if the new government can help sports federations secure independent governance and finances, it will elevate South Korea to the next level as a leading sports nation."

Chung Mong-gyu, head of the Korea Football Association, asked the incoming government for additional support at the sport's grassroots level.

"Expanding infrastructure is the most pressing issue in football today," Chung said. "We desperately need to build a new training center for national teams. And I also hope the new government won't spare a penny on building facilities for children and young players."

The first major sporting event in South Korea for the new administration will be the FIFA U-20 World Cup, which will kick off on May 20. Chung asked Moon to attend the opening match on May 20 and the final match on June 11 to show his support for football.

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