Pyeongchang, South Korea Thinks Big for 2018 Winter Olympics

There is something about a secluded Olympic Games in a relatively small mountain town that sounds especially delightful in today’s bigger-must-be-better sports world.

The Winter Olympics always sneak up on us, coming so soon after the previous Summer Games. And so it is with the 2018 Olympics, which are now exactly one year away, being held in and around Pyeongchang, the smallest city (including the surrounding environs) to host an Olympic Games, summer or winter, since the 1994 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway.

It takes three hours to get there by bus from Seoul’s Kimpo airport. A high-speed train, still under construction, will reduce that trip by more than an hour. From Seoul itself, the train to Pyeongchang will take just over an hour.

This area of less than 50,000 inhabitants, with a nearby city of 230,000 hosting the skating and hockey events, sounds quaint and faraway, but it still cannot escape the issues that roil the world.

The Pyeongchang Games will be faced with some of the same pressing concerns that dogged the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio: internal political turmoil and scandal, fears about a tumultuous global order, and, most specifically, Russia’s state-sponsored doping, and what to do about it.

On that point, Lee Hee-Beom, president and CEO of the Pyeongchang Organizing Committee, said during a recent interview that he believes Russia’s Winter Olympic athletes will be competing at the 2018 Games.

“With their renewed plan and actions, I think they can meet the (drug testing) criteria,” he said.

Since the interview, however, the world track and field federation extended its ban on Russian athletes, and Russian sports leaders continue to defend themselves and their system in the wake of investigations that have found that more than 1,000 elite Russian athletes participated in a massive, state-sponsored doping program.

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SOURCE: USA Today, Christine Brennan