(ATR) The leader of the PyeongChang bid for the 2018 Olympics tells Around the Rings the bid is unaffected by the departure of the Gangwon Province governor who lost an appeal of election law violations carrying a prison sentence.
"It will have little impact on the bid," Chairman Yang Ho Cho tells ATR in a statement, rejecting one report claiming the bid has been thrown into chaos.
An appellate court in South Korea upheld the conviction of Kwang Jae Lee on charges he received illegal contributions in his successful campaign last year for Gangwon Province governor. The ruling confirms a six-month suspended jail term and a $100,000 fine. He is also stripped as the provincial governor.
Vice governor Chang Kang Ki will take over as governor pending an election in April. He will represent the government next month when the IOC Evaluation Commission conducts an inspection visit.
Cho denies the loss of Governor Lee is a major setback for the Korean bid, despite just three weeks to go until the IOC visit.
"As a matter of national priority, the bid campaign is a team effort that is not dependant on one or two individuals, and we are all working together systematically.
"PyeongChang 2018 will proactively continue our bid activities under the leadership of the bid chairman and with the government’s strong backing."
Pyeongchang can also turn to former governor Jin Sun Kim, the man who led Pyeongchang's failed 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympic bids. Kim stepped down as governor last year after term limits and was named Special Envoy of the Korean President on behalf of the bid.
Unlike the previous bids, the national government is leading the way, putting the provincial government in a lesser role, a situation which also mitigates the departure of Lee as governor.
Since he took over as governor last June, Lee appears to ohave had a negligible impact on the bid, despite a few meetings with IOC members at international meetings.
During his efforts on behalf of the past bids, Kim established invaluable connections with IOC members during his three terms as governor. At the Asian Games last November in Guangzhou, Kim was seen meeting with IOC members, while Governor Lee was nearly invisible.
But Cho said that Kim would not be thrust into the frontline of the bid to act as the main spokesperson for the government on matters relating to the bid.
"Former Governor Kim is working as a special ambassador for the bid, not as a spokesperson," he said.
Cho also told ATR there were no discussions about giving the mayor of PyeongChang a more prominent role on the bid team.
PyeongChang becomes the second of the 2018 bids to lose a prominent member of the bid team after printing the three-volume candidature file that was presented to the IOC this month.
On page six of the PyeongChang dossier, Lee’s picture appears with a letter to the IOC asking for their support of the bid. In the Annecy candidature file, Edgar Grospiron is seen in a portrait photo of the smiling French bid team. Grospiron resigned in December as CEO.
(Munich, which also suffered the sudden departure of CEO Willy Bogner, at least had the good fortune of that change taking place well before the file went to print)
The IOC Evaluation Commission visits Pyeongchang Feb. 16 to 19.
The IOC team will travel first to Annecy from Feb. 8 to 12, Munich from March 1 to 4.
The vote by the IOC for the 2018 Olympics takes place July 6 at the Session in Durban.
Written by Mark Bisson and Ed Hula.