December 03, 2014

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) A South Korean province is threatening to cut its share of the budget for building facilities for the 2018 Winter Olympics and is pressuring the national government to take on a larger burden of the costs.

The Korean central government has offered to take on half of the 66.2 billion won ($60 million) in costs for building a new stadium to host the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2018 Winter Games to be held in the ski resort town of Pyeongchang, Gangwon province councilman Lee Ki-chan said Thursday. But Lee says Seoul must increase its share of the costs to 75 percent or higher to prevent the Olympics from crippling the province financially.

Gangwon province, which governs Pyeongchang, has been struggling with debt as it builds facilities for the Olympics. It has spent more than 1.68 trillion won ($1.5 billion) won on a ski resort that will be a main Olympic venue and still has to build eight more facilities, including the stadium for the opening and closing ceremonies, and new roads to connect them.

The Gangwon provincial council and the county councils of Pyeongchang, Gangneung and Jeongseon recently issued a joint statement threatening to give up the rights to host the Olympics if the central government doesn't commit to more financial support.

Lee described the threat as a plea and said that the council still wants the Olympics to be held in Pyeongchang.

The national Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism expects the total cost of the Pyeongchang Olympics to exceed 11 trillion won ($10 billion). An official from the ministry's sports policy department did not respond to repeated calls for comment Thursday.

South Korea held the Summer Olympics in Seoul in 1988, co-hosted the soccer World Cup with Japan in 2002 and staged the Asian Games in Seoul in 1986, in Busan in 2002 and in Incheon in September this year. Each event was touted by the government as a celebration of the nation's economic prosperity and rising international influence.

But public sentiment surrounding big sporting events is no longer unanimously positive because of worries over costs. Incheon struggled mightily to pay for the Asian Games. In 2002, former Incheon Mayor Song Young-gil threatened to renounce the city's rights to host in order to pressure the central government to take on a larger share of the costs.

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