Thomas Bach at “PyeongChang 2018 House in Rio,” on Copacabana Beach
The chief organizer of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics on Sunday singled out the “low-cost, high-efficiency” opening ceremony as the most impressive moment of the Rio de Janeiro Summer Games.
Lee Hee-beom, who heads PyeongChang’s organizing committee, has been in Rio to promote the first Winter Games in South Korea. The Rio Olympics will draw to a conclusion with a closing ceremony later Sunday.
“The time has now come for the PyeongChang Olympics,” Lee said at a press conference. “Seventy-seven weeks from now, global sports festivities will take place on snow and ice of PyeongChang.”
Before the start of the Rio Olympics, Lee gave a presentation before the International Olympic Committee (IOC) members on PyeongChang’s preparations. Lee has met with leaders of international winter sports federations to discuss closer cooperation.
The organizers set up its promotional center, named “PyeongChang 2018 House in Rio,” on Copacabana Beach, one of Rio’s main tourist destinations here. They said the center has attracted more than 140,000 visitors.
“South Korea has successfully hosted international sporting events such as the 1988 Seoul Olympics, the 2002 FIFA World Cup and the 2014 Incheon Asian Games,” Lee said. “We in PyeongChang will try to learn from this experience and stage a great Olympics.”
Lee said he has learned a great deal from Rio, in particular its low-budget opening ceremony that still drew high praise for substance and style.
Rio reportedly spent about US$21 million on the opening ceremony production, about half of what London spent on its show in 2012.
“The Olympic opening ceremonies to this day have served as the stage for the host nations to showcase their prowess,” Lee said. “Such a trend reached its peak in Sochi (in 2014), but with the Rio Olympics, I felt a big budget isn’t always the way to go. I learned that creative ideas should take precedence over money.”
Lee said he also learned the importance of language proficiency among volunteers, many of whom in Rio didn’t speak English.
“I’ve traveled to every corner of Rio, and I’ll make sure PyeongChang won’t make the same mistakes.”
As for North Korea’s potential participation, Lee said the doors are “open to every country, including North Korea.”
“Hosting an Olympics that promotes peace is one of our goals,” Lee added.
The chief organizer said he didn’t meet with Choe Ryong-hae, a high-ranking North Korean official who visited Rio, during his stay.
“There’s been no specific progress made on North Korea’s participation,” Lee added. “If they love peace, they will surely take part in it.”
By Yoo Jee-ho
RIO DE JANEIRO, Aug. 21 (Yonhap)