Seoul, May 12: The newly-elected chief organiser of the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea vowed today to quell concerns prompted by the sudden departure of his predecessor less than two years before the Games.
Lee Hee-Beom, a former commerce minister, took over from Korean Air chairman Cho Yang-Ho who resigned last week to focus on his ailing shipping business.
Cho had been in the job since July 2014 and was largely credited with turning around the preparations for the Games in Pyeongchang, which had previously been dogged by construction delays and funding shortages.
Things got so bad at one point that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) floated the possibility of moving some events to other countries such as Japan. Cho brought in some big corporate sponsors such as Samsung and the first test events held in February were largely successful.
Cho's departure came as International Olympic Committee Coordination Commission chair Gunilla Lindberg warned the workload would "soon increase dramatically" with two dozen test events scheduled for the next winter sports season.
The choice of Lee, 67, concerned some who pointed out that his experience in sports administration was limited to being an adviser for an earlier failed Olympics bid by Pyeongchang and the head of the bidding committee for the Gwangju Summer Universiad in 2008.
"I am aware of many concerns and worries over the Games... and will try my best to overcome these problems to hold a successful event," Lee said Thursday after being unanimously elected by the organising committee.
His appointment needs a final approval by the sports ministry -- which should be a formality. Lee has vast networks in South Korean business circles, and there is clearly a hope that he can help bridge the remaining sponsorship gap.
After his term as trade minister from 2003 to 2006, Lee served various powerful business organisations including the Korea Employers' Federation.