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One year after the PyeongChang Olympics: What happens to the Olympic venues?

Special post by Jungah Choi, doctoral student at Clemson University:

PyeongChang has four ski resorts, including two major ski resorts in the county were the focus of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games (Alpensia resort and Yongpyong resort).

Alpensia Ski Jumping Center

Photo of the Alpensia Ski Jump Centre 

The city of PyeongChang is already a popular winter sport destination for domestic tourists, though few international skiers visit. By hosting the Olympic Games, South Korea’s vision was to develop the PyeongChang County as a winter sports hub in Asia. They spent around $14 billion on the Olympic Games, which is significantly less than the 2014 Sochi Games ($51 billion). Also, the majority of Koreans think that the Games were success (about 80%). Does it mean that PyeongChang in a good position to become a winter sports hub? It seems a new high-speed train system, called KTX High-Speed Rail, for the Games which serve access to the ski resort for those who came from Seoul to PyeongChang in under two hours will help further South Korea’s vision for creating an Asian winter sports hub. However, post-Games use of Olympic venues does make us wonder if South Korea’s vision for a winter sports hub is viable. Previous host cities like Lillehammer and Vancouver have become popular destinations for winter sports and in many ways the gold standard for post-Games success in that all of the venues still in use.


Photo of the Jeonseon Alpine Centre 

Just near a year after the end of the winter festival, legacy is still a major concern following the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics, with concerns existing about the use of venues. Currently, some of the venues are ‘underway’ for post-Games legacy planning. For example, the PyeongChang Olympic stadium, which costs about US$110 million to build, has been demolished after being used four times in total (opening and closing ceremonies for Olympic and Paralympic Games). Such demolition would help to prevent the stadium from falling into inevitable disrepair with a huge amount of money to maintain that afterwards. In its place, the PyeongChang province is planning to create an Olympic park, including post-Games Olympic Museum and Olympic monument around the structure bearing the Olympic flame, called the ‘wall of champions’ to commemorate the achievement of medalists.

Eight of the venues including Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre, Gangneung Ice Arena and Gangneung Curling Centre will be used as multi-purpose sports facilities following the Games. For example, the landing area of Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre could be used for other sporting venue during summer season. It was used as a home stadium for K-league football team, called Gangwon FC in the past. Also, this place is possible to make a little bit of profit by developing tourism products with observation platform. In addition, Gangneung Curling Centre will be usedas a winter sport facility by hosting 2018Pacific Asia Curling Championships, helping to position the region as an Asian winter sports hub for decades to come. However, still no plans have been put in place for the Gangneung Hockey Centre, the Gangneung Oval and the Jeongseon Alpine Centre so far.Especially, Jeongseon Alpine Center, which took two years to build, destroyed a 500-year-old forest, and cost $200 million become a massive white elephant. There is a different stance on these issues between central and regional governments whether the forest area should be restored to its natural state or maintain the center as a future ‘comprehensive leisure’ zone since it could cost about $200 million over 20 years.

In this situation, South Korea’s vision of creating a top winter sports hub might be in doubt. Recently, the Gangwon province has announced their hosting idea to make PyeongChang as a permanent home for winter events rather than holding the games in a different city. For instance, they have several plans to host the 2021 Asian Games, the 2025 Winter Universiad and the 2021 Winter Military World Games, expecting it works as the most effective way to prevent the “white elephant” problem by allowing organizers to reuse set facilities over and over.

JUNGAH CHOI, is a doctoral student and graduate research assistant in the Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management department at Clemson University. Her research focuses on sport tourism, especially on post-event Olympic tourism, Heritage through the Olympics and Olympic legacies. She received her bachelor’s degree in Sport Science from Ewha Womans University, South Korea and a masters’ degree in Sport Management from Seoul National University, South Korea.

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