Yonhap, U.S. Embassy organize cross-country bike tour to promote PyeongChang 2018
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea, April 21 (Yonhap) -- Yonhap News Agency, South Korea's key newswire, and the U.S. Embassy in South Korea announced Friday they will co-organize a cross-country bicycle tour starting this weekend in promotion of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.
The weeklong tour will start on the southern resort island of Jeju on Sunday and will move northward before it wraps up in Gangneung, some 230 kilometers east of Seoul in Gangwon Province, on April 29.
The route will cover cities in the South and North Jeolla provinces, as well as the South and North Gyeongsang provinces, before finishing in Gangwon Province.
PyeongChang 2018 will be the first Winter Olympics to be held in South Korea. PyeongChang, some 180 kilometers east of Seoul, will host the opening and closing ceremonies, along with most snow events, while Gangneung will be home to ice events.
In this file photo taken on Aug. 6, 2011, Kathleen Stephens (R), then U.S. Ambassador to South Korea, leads a bike tour along the Donggang River in Gangwon Province. (Yonhap)
Organizers said Mark Canning, the cultural affairs officer of the U.S. Embassy, will lead the tour. He will also be joined by former U.S. Ambassador to South Korea Kathleen Stephens, who served in Seoul from 2008 to 2011.
During her time in South Korea, Stephens often engaged in "bike diplomacy," leading cross-country tours with embassy staffers.
On this upcoming tour, Stephens will be joined by Koo Ja-yeol, chairman of LS Group and president of the Korea Cycling Federation, among others.
Stephens, a former Peace Corps volunteer in South Korea in the 1970s also known by her Korean name Shim Eun-kyung, did a tour of Gangwon Province in August 2011, a month after PyeongChang was selected as the 2018 Winter Olympics host.
She then posted an entry titled "The Strength of Gangwon-do" on the U.S. Embassy's blog, a nod to the title of a Korean film, and extolled the virtues of the province (Gangwon-do in Korean) that she visited "numerous times" during her tenure.
"Gangwondo is famous perhaps above all for its scenery, and that meant I had to bring my bicycle," she wrote. "We had two great rides: the first following the winding Donggang River from Auraji to Jeongseon. The water was crystal-clear, and the mountains were stunning -- it was a perfect biking course. I wish the citizens of Gangwondo all the best as they continue to diversify their economy, protect their environment and prepare for the 2018 Winter Olympics."
Stephens and other riders will organize cultural events at each stop, experiencing both Korean and U.S. culture. Their activities will include making rice cakes and visiting Buddhist temples and "hanoks" (traditional Korean houses). Stephens will meet with local high school and university students as well.
In their final stop in Gangneung, they will tour the Olympic facilities.
"We hope this tour will raise interest in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and lead to the successful hosting of the event," an embassy official said. "And hopefully, the grassroots diplomacy will further strengthen the Korea-U.S. relations."
Soohorang (L) and Bandabi, the official mascots of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics and Winter Paralympics, stand before Gangneung City Hall in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, on March 28, 2017. Gangneung will stage ice events during the competitions. (Yonhap)