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(Yonhap Interview) IOC official calls on world to enjoy 'unique' Olympic experience in PyeongChang

2017/11/23 06:00

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By Yoo Jee-ho

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea, Nov. 23 (Yonhap) -- Sports fans planning to come to South Korea for next year's Winter Olympics will only be so lucky to enjoy a "unique" experience thanks to the beautiful scenery and proximity of venues, a senior International Olympic Committee (IOC) official said.

In an interview with Yonhap News Agency on Wednesday, Christophe Dubi, the Olympic Games executive director for the IOC, said the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics will be "unprecedented" in many ways because of how easy it'll be to access different venues.

"If you compare the proximity of mountains and ice rinks to other cities, this is something extremely unique," Dubi said. "Sochi (in 2014) was somewhat the same. I would say that here, it's even closer. In comparison, others would never be able to offer that kind of experience."

   Dubi was speaking on the sidelines of the IOC's final Project Review on PyeongChang, as he and other IOC representatives went over PyeongChang's preparations for the first Winter Games to take place in South Korea. Dubi arrived in PyeongChang via KTX express train from Incheon International Airport on a newly constructed route that will be open to the public in December. The trip will be under two hours when in full operation.

Christophe Dubi, the Olympic Games executive director for the International Olympic Committee, speaks to Yonhap News Agency in an interview in PyeongChang, host of the 2018 Winter Games, on Nov. 22, 2017. (Yonhap) Christophe Dubi, the Olympic Games executive director for the International Olympic Committee, speaks to Yonhap News Agency in an interview in PyeongChang, host of the 2018 Winter Games, on Nov. 22, 2017. (Yonhap)

Dubi said he enjoyed "a very smooth ride" in the "high quality" train, which he added will enhance the experience of spectators.

"You take the train from Seoul, and in a couple of hours, you're here," Dubi said of the Olympic host city some 180 kilometers east of the capital. "Within a day, you can go watch some ice sports, and you can be in the mountain area and follow a number of events. That's unprecedented."

   PyeongChang will host some skiing and sliding events, while Gangneung, some 20 kilometers east of PyeongChang, will host all ice events. Jeongseon, about 20 kilometers south of PyeongChang, will be home to alpine skiing.

While bidding for the Olympics, PyeongChang often highlighted its compact venue plan to woo IOC voters, claiming that all venues are reachable within 30 minutes of each other.

Tickets sales, meanwhile, have been lagging for PyeongChang. Only a select few events, such as short track speed skating and figure skating, have enjoyed brisk sales so far, with less than three months until the Feb. 9-25 Olympics.

Dubi said the organizers must promote the once-in-a-lifetime nature of an Olympic experience.

"From a strategic standpoint for the organizers, it's not so much to convince people to watch a sport, but to watch a sport in the context of an Olympic experience," he said. "I think what is really important for remaining sports to be sold is for the general population abroad and in Korea to understand the tremendous experience they can get coming to PyeongChang."

   Dubi also dismissed concerns about lack of accommodations and skyrocketing prices for ones that are available. He said it's just a matter of having the right information, since there are plenty of rooms still available at affordable prices.

Christophe Dubi, the Olympic Games executive director for the International Olympic Committee, speaks to Yonhap News Agency in an interview in PyeongChang, host of the 2018 Winter Games, on Nov. 22, 2017. (Yonhap) Christophe Dubi, the Olympic Games executive director for the International Olympic Committee, speaks to Yonhap News Agency in an interview in PyeongChang, host of the 2018 Winter Games, on Nov. 22, 2017. (Yonhap)

For PyeongChang, establishing after-use plans for Olympic venues has been a source of some handwringing. Dubi said he's been informed by the organizers that there will be a plan for all venues in place by the end of December.

As Dubi sees it, the legacy for Olympic Games doesn't necessarily have to mean financial profits.

"What's incredibly important is that those venues are used, either for high-level competitions, for training of athletes, or general public use," he said. "The usage of venues is of primary importance. If you take some of the most successful venues in different countries, it's a mix of sporting events and different events. You have venues that can host ice hockey, basketball and volleyball and concerts. This is the kind of agility and flexibility required for most indoor venues."

   Holding the No. 2 staff position within the IOC, Dubi is in charge of organization, coordination and follow-up of all Olympic Games activities, from the candidature phase to the actual holding of the Olympic Games. The post was created in 2003, and Dubi succeeded the inaugural Executive Director Gilbert Felli in September 2014.

This will be Dubi's second Olympic Games and the first Winter Olympics in his current post.

Dubi said he doesn't think too much about himself or his personal feelings because "the Olympic Games are greater than individuals."

   "We have very competent organizers, international federations, rights-holding broadcasters and top sponsors, and all these people come with tremendous experience," he said. "The IOC plays a role in this. My role is one of coordination between all these entities. No special feeling for me except great anticipation. Once it starts, it's just pure emotion from Day 1 until the end of the Games. I can't wait to be here for the Games."

  

Christophe Dubi, the Olympic Games executive director for the International Olympic Committee, speaks to Yonhap News Agency in an interview in PyeongChang, host of the 2018 Winter Games, on Nov. 22, 2017. (Yonhap) Christophe Dubi, the Olympic Games executive director for the International Olympic Committee, speaks to Yonhap News Agency in an interview in PyeongChang, host of the 2018 Winter Games, on Nov. 22, 2017. (Yonhap)

Dubi said he is often fascinated by the display of people's pride in hosting an event like the Olympic Games, and it's especially strong in South Korea.

"It's something you feel when you land, and it's always a joy to make the trip from Switzerland to Korea, and for me, it's like going to a second home," he said. "When people realize what you have as assets both for summer and winter tourism, I am 100 percent sure that one of the big legacies will be additional tourism, both from Korea and the rest of the world. Once you've hosted the games in great fashion like you will, there's no doubt PyeongChang will be on the world's map."

   jeeho@yna.co.kr

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