On February 9 and March 9, 2018, the 23rd Winter Olympic Games and Paralympic Games kick off in PyeongChang, Korea, about nine decades after the International Olympic Committee retrospectively declared the first International Winter Sports Week in Chamonix, France, as the first Winter Olympics.
This now global event has come a very long way. Compared to the first Winter Olympics graced by 258 amateur athletes from 16 participating countries, PyeongChang 2018 is hosting more than 3,000 athletes from 90 countries.
The Winter Olympics will have 102 events across 15 disciplines in seven sports while the Paralympic Games will have 80 events across six disciplines in six sports. Several new sports have been introduced, such as snowboard big air (men, women), curling mixed doubles, speed skating mass start (men, women), and the Alpine skiing nation team event. In addition, PyeongChang 2018 will stage the greatest number of women’s and mixed events in the history of the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.
Athletes and officials
In 1988, Seoul hosted the Summer Olympic Games. From 2004, PyeongChang has successfully hosted The Dream Programme annually. In addition, 25 test events have been successfully completed with more than 5,064 athletes and officials from 45 countries taking part.
Hosting these events have given PyeongChang hands-on operational experience on field of play and all service factors including transportation, volunteer operations, ticket sales, and cooperation with authorities.
Competitions will be held at 13 venues for the Winter Games but the opening and closing ceremonies will be hosted at the PyeongChang Olympic Stadium, a temporary structure with capacity for 35,000 spectators.
Coverage of the Games will be accessible on digital platforms but it is my hope that local TV stations will provide viewers in Kenya and the region with live coverage of some, if not all, the games.
Korea has transformed itself from a war-torn, aid-recipient country to a donor state by achieving unprecedented economic growth in a record-breaking duration. Similarly, with a $2.4 billion budget proposed to operate the Games, the country has in a short time successfully crossed almost all the preparation hurdles and is ready to host the events.
The infrastructure developments that have been done will leave a lasting legacy for the Games and the province, and will lead to the growth of tourism and winter sports in the region.
I had the opportunity of visiting some of the competition venues and I can attest to the fact that PyeongChang 2018 will be successful.
Korea’s ICT sector will be at the forefront to ensure that participants get the most convenience. 5G, cutting-edge holograms, personalised IoT (internet of things) services and other exciting innovations will be unveiled for the first time. Half of the competition venues are newly built and the construction of high-speed railway that has reduced the time between Seoul and PyeongChang from three hours to an hour and Incheon International Airport and PyeongChang from 3.5 hours to 98 minutes is complete.
Kenya and Korea have strengthened cooperation in many areas such as ICT, science and technology, infrastructure, and education since 1964, when our two countries established diplomatic ties. In this regard, Korea is counting on the interest and support of the Kenyan people for the PyeongChang 2018 Games.
Several Kenyans have participated in the annual Dream Program initiated by Gangwon Province promotion plan for young winter sports athletes. Since 2004, this programme has led to many young people being invited from countries where winter sports are not developed due to various reason such as climate and provided with systematic training and experience of winter sports.
The upcoming Winter Olympics and Paralympics are yet another opportunity for both Kenya and Korea to cooperate even further. We know that the Kenya National Olympics Committee will be sending a national team to PyeongChang 2018. But like most African nations, Winter Olympics are not as popular as the Summer Olympics for obvious climatic reasons.
However, nothing, not even climate, should be a barrier to anyone participating in any sport. Discipline and strong will are actually the most important motivations in achieving anything.
In addition, our embassy is ever open in facilitating forums to share Korea’s lessons and experiences to enable Kenya to innovate her own solutions that are realistic and achievable even in the sporting sector.
Mr Young-Dae is the ambassador of the Republic of Korea.