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IOC warns 2018 Olympic organizers of ‘white elephant’ venues


PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA—The International Olympic Committee warned organizers in Pyeongchang on Thursday that they risk creating white elephants from 2018 Winter Games venues.

Completing a final full inspection visit before the Feb. 9 opening ceremony, an IOC panel predicted a successful Olympics but said “definitive legacy use for several venues is still outstanding.”

“The IOC has once again requested that final plans be presented as a priority,” the Olympic body said in a statement.

Olympic venues that lie underused after the games is a long-standing problem, and lately hurt the reputation of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The IOC voiced its concern in South Korea “despite legacies being identified in the bid and different options being presented over the past seven years.”

The statement after a three-day visit by the IOC’s co-ordination panel did not mention political tensions fuelled by North Korea’s missile testing program. Olympic events will take place less than 100 kilometres from the demilitarized zone between the Korean neighbours.

On a weekend visit to China, North Korea’s closest ally, IOC President Thomas Bach played down fears of disruption.

“We are watching the situation, but I think there is no reason for any immediate concern because the fact that the games are taking place there is appreciated by all the national Olympic committees and by the governments,” Bach said in Beijing.

Organizers in Pyeongchang remain upbeat that the two-week Winter Games will promote South Korea, which has also been distracted by a political corruption scandal and presidential impeachment.

“We want to make these the best Winter Games ever and showcase Korea to the world as a global leader in sports and as the new hub for winter sports in Asia,” said Lee Hee-beom, president of the organizing committee.

Slow ticket sales, at home and abroad, plus low-key promotion in South Korea have also been identified as priorities to work on. A new phase of ticket sales starts next week.

“While details must continue to be refined in the coming months, it was evident that the organizing committee is well on its way to delivering successful Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games,” said Gunilla Lindberg, who chairs the IOC inspection panel.

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