• Kyodo

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Lee Hee-beom, president of the Pyeongchang Olympics’ organizing committee said that coaxing spectators into buying tickets for less-popular events remains a problem three months ahead of the games’ start on Feb. 9.

Lee said Monday that funding issues are a thing of the past for the games in South Korea and excitement is building, but that ticket sales for some competitions are not up to snuff.

“The financial side had been a big problem,” Lee said. “At one time, we were looking at a 300-billion-won shortfall (about $270 million), but we’ve had the cooperation of public corporations, and have now mostly cleared that hurdle.

“Our next challenge is ticket sales, which have become imbalanced. Figure skating, speedskating and short track speedskating and the ice hockey finals are popular, but sales for Nordic events, cross-country skiing and the like are sluggish. It is incumbent on us to fill those venues with spectators.”

Although domestic demand for tickets has not been that strong, Lee believes sales are on track.

“We are experiencing an increase in enthusiasm since the start of the torch relay (on Nov. 1),” he said. “And it looks like we will exceed our 60 percent sales target for the middle of November.

“Since schools will be out in February, we have put a lot into promotions to get many school students to attend.”

Regarding the question of North Korean participation, Lee said he will hold out hope until the last minute — despite a lack of discussion on the matter at an Association of National Olympic Committees meeting that wrapped up in Prague on Friday.

“I met with North Korean representatives but there was no substantial talk,” Lee said. “But nobody knows what might happen until the final deadline for entries. I pray they will attend.”

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