SEOUL, April 15 (Yonhap) — The countdown to the first Winter Olympics to be held in South Korea reached 300 days on Saturday, with the east coast host city of PyeongChang ratcheting up its preparations and local athletes eyeing a record medal haul with a top-four finish.
The PyeongChang Winter Games will be held from Feb. 9 to 25 next year under the slogan “Passion. Connected.” It will be the first Olympics in South Korea since the 1988 Seoul Summer Games.
A dozen venues in PyeongChang, located some 180 kilometers east of Seoul, and its sub-host cities of Gangneung and Jeongseon in Gangwon Province will stage seven sports across 15 disciplines.
The PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games (POCOG) estimates that 95 countries will send about 6,500 athletes and officials to take part in its Olympics. They will vie for 102 gold medals at stake.
The 12 venues — seven for sports on snow and five for events on ice — are all located within 30 minutes of each other.
The PyeongChang Mountain Cluster will be home to Alpensia Biathlon Centre, Cross-Country Skiing Centre, Ski Jumping Centre, Sliding Centre, Phoenix Snow Park and Yongpyong Alpine Centre.
Venues in Gangneung are some 20 kilometers east of the PyeongChang Mountain Cluster, and arenas there are the Gangneung Curling Centre, Gangneung Hockey Centre, Gangneung Ice Arena, Gangneung Oval and Kwandong Hockey Centre.
Jeongseon Alpine Centre is the lone venue in Jeongseon, about 20 kilometers south of PyeongChang.
Six of the 12 venues are being constructed for the Olympics, while six existing venues will be refurbished for the quadrennial competition. The organizers said construction of four new facilities has been completed, while Alpensia Sliding Centre is 94.15 percent complete and Jeongseon Alpine Centre has 86.6 percent of construction work done so far.
All these venues staged Olympic test events earlier this year to find out their shortcomings and check their readiness ahead of the Winter Games. There were 15 test events in disciplines like figure skating, hockey, snowboarding, skeleton, biathlon, ski jumping and curling, among others.
The POCOG, led by Lee Hee-beom, had been suffering from the impact of a major political scandal surrounding former President Park Geun-hye and her confidante, Choi Soon-sil. It made local companies reluctant to open their wallets, but now efforts for securing sponsorship deals are back on track.
PyeongChang’s goal is to bring in 940 billion won (US$825.5 million), and it has reached about 92 percent of the target, according to the organizers. Lee previously said he’s trying to get public corporations more involved.
At the upcoming Winter Olympics, South Korea has set out to collect up to 20 medals, including eight gold, and finish in the top four in the medal race.
South Korea’s best Winter Games performance came at Vancouver in 2010, when it won six gold medals and hauled in a record 14 medals total to finish fifth. At the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, South Korea grabbed three gold, three silver and two bronze medals to rank 13th.
All 26 Winter Olympic titles by South Korea have come from ice events — short track, speed skating and figure skating.