As the main venue for ice sports in the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, Gangneung City is making systematic preparations for the Olympic Games by building additional sports, lodging and transportation facilities as scheduled. Along with Gangneung, PyeongChang and Jeongseon will serve as major venues for snow sports and alpine ski games respectively. The PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games will be held for 17 days from February 9 to February 25, 2018 in these venues under the official slogan of ‘Passion. Connected’, while the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games will take place for 10 days from March 9 to March 18 of the same year in the same venues.
Ice sports in 2018 Olympic Winter Games to be held in Gangneung include speed skating, figure skating, short track speed skating, ice-hockey and curling, and those in 2018 Paralympic Winter Games include ice sledge hockey and wheelchair curling. Prior to PyeongChang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, Gangneung will also host a number of international test events in 2016 and 2017. They are the ISU Short Track World Cup, ISU World Single Distances Speed Skating Championships, ISU Four Continents Figure Skating Championships, WCF World Junior Curling Championships 2017, 2017 IHF World Championships Div-1 (Men), World Wheelchair Curling Championship, and IPC 2017 Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships A-pool. These international games will be held at the Gangneung Oval, Gangneung Hockey Centre, Kwandong Hockey Centre, Gangneung Curling Centre and other supplementary stadiums in the city.
For successful support of these sports games, the Gangneung city authority is constructing 4 new stadiums and remodeling one stadium in addition to existing Gangneung Sports Complex in cooperation with the Gangwon-do provincial government. By 2017, it will also build an Olympic art center with over 1,000 seats for culture Olympics. It will serve as an arena for introducing Korean culture and arts to the world while exchanging culture with other countries. After the Olympics, it will be used as a cultural center that can contribute to promotion of unique regional traditional culture.
To improve accessibility to stadiums and convenience in transportation in downtown of Gangneung, the city government is constructing additional roads in total length of 6.5 kilometers and expanding existing streets. In addition, the central government is now building a double-track railroad between Gangneung and Wonju in length of about 120 kilometers with the goal of completing it by 2017. When the project is completed, it will take slightly over 1 hour from Seoul to Gangneung by train.
Besides construction of sports facilities and infrastructure, the Gangeung city authority is striving to build an environment where athletes and visitors experience safe and comfortable stay. Since 2014, it has been conducting the ‘smile campaign’ that encourages citizens to voluntarily welcome athletes and visitors from other parts of the country and world with smile to help them feel friendly and comfortable. It is training volunteer workers who speak diverse foreign languages, while providing foreign language and guide training programs to taxi drivers. To expand lodging and hospitality facilities, it will arrange home-stay programs with 3,000 selected homes to provide convenience to visitors, and improve facilities of restaurants and cafes.
“To provide full support for successful PyeongChang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, the city government is concentrating concerted efforts on making all necessary preparations, including availability of sports and convenience facilities, transportation and others. With the goal of completing their construction by November of this year, we are building the Gangneung Ice Arena, Gangneung Hockey Centre and Kwandong Hockey Center, while remodeling the Gangneung Curling Centre. Construction work of the Gangneung Oval is now progressed by 47% and we plan to complete the project by 85% by the end of this year and the entire project next year,” said Mayor Choi Myung-hee of Gangneung City in a recent interview. “We will also provide convenient and comfortable environment to athletes and visitors from other parts of the country and world during the period of Olympic and Paralympic games. As the official slogan of ‘Passion. Connected’ means, we are committed to honoring the lofty spirit of Olympics and conveying warm affection of Korean people to athletes and visitors to promote world harmony.”
Korea first took part in the 5th Olympic Winter Games held in St. Moritz, Switzerland in 1948. The Korean team won four medals (two gold medals, one silver and one bronze) at the 16th Olympic Winter Games in Albertville, France in 1992, and the team ranked 5th overall with six gold medals, six silvers and two bronzes in the Games in Vancouver, Canada in 2010. In 1992, Korea began to emerge as a winter sport powerhouse with its strong performance in skating games. Korean stars such as Kim Gi-hun, the gold medalist in the 1,000-meter short-track speed skating, and Kim Yun-man, the silver medalist in the 1,000-meter speed skating, won Korea's first-ever gold medals in Albertville. In the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, Yuna Kim won the gold medal in figure skating with a new world record, and Korean team won 8 medals including 3 golds and 3 silvers in the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.
Meanwhile, the Gangneung city government signed in January 2016 an agreement with K-TOTO Inc. for organizing the SPORTS TOTO S.C. Ice Sports Team in Gangneung. As an ice sports team to be operated by K-TOTO, an agent of Sports TOTO, the SPORTS TOTO S.C. Ice Sports Team will contribute to expanding range of ice sports games by strengthening competitiveness of national team members and promoting unpopular sports games with optimal training environment and full support in preparation for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games. As for the team, Lee Gyu-hyeok, former member of national team who took part in 6 winter Olympic games, was named as its general director, and other medalists including the speed skating Olympic champion Lee Sang-hwa, Pak Seung-hi, Mun Jun and Ha Hong-seon were selected as members of the team. The inauguration ceremony of the SPORTS TOTO S.C. Ice Sports Team was held on January 12, 2016 in Seoul. The team is expected to contribute to systematically training ice sports hopefuls, expanding athletes in winter sports and positioning Gangneung as the center of ice sports.