MONTE CARLO, MONACO – The IOC is urging South Korean organizers of the 2018 Winter Games to move bobsled and luge events to another country to save money, according to an IOC official with knowledge of the situation.
The IOC asked the South Koreans to halt construction of a new sliding venue for the Pyeongchang Games and agree to relocate the events to an existing venue in Asia, Europe or North America, the official told AP on Saturday.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the request has not been made public.
One option for relocating the event is Nagano, which hosted the 1998 Winter Games. But the official stressed the venue does not have to be in Asia, listing Europe and North America as other possibilities.
The move would save $120 million in construction costs and $3 million-$5 million in annual maintenance costs, and is in line with IOC president Thomas Bach’s cost-cutting reforms, the official said.
The international federations for bobsled and luge are aware of the request and in agreement, the official said.
Korean organizers have so far resisted the IOC’s push and continued to build their venue for the sliding events, which also includes skeleton, contending that the facility is important for Korean athletes, is sustainable, and will have a long-term use, the official said.
The U.S. has existing venues in the former host cities of Lake Placid and Salt Lake City, while Canada has former Olympic venues in both Whistler and Calgary.
The IOC official said the request to the Koreans was made in the past few weeks. A solution could be reached when IOC officials travel to Pyeongchang in January for a review of Olympic preparations.
Cho Yang-ho, head of Pyeongchang’s organizing committee, said earlier Saturday that Bach’s reform program will offer “a lot of opportunities” to host cities.
“At this stage various ideas are pondered,” Cho said, without giving details. “After this session we will have a clear understanding about the new flexibility that Agenda 2020 provides . . . and we will consult with the IOC.”
The full IOC meets on Monday and Tuesday to vote on Bach’s “Olympic Agenda 2020” reform package, which includes measures to reduce the cost of both bidding for the Olympics and then hosting the games.
The vote comes amid heightened concerns over costs that led several cities to pull out of the bidding for the 2022 Winter Games, leaving only Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan, in the race.