December 06, 2014

MONACO (AP) The International Olympic Committee is urging South Korean organizers of the 2018 Winter Games to move bobsled and luge events to another country to save money, according to an IOC official with knowledge of the situation.

The IOC asked the South Koreans to halt construction of a new sliding venue for the Pyeongchang Games and agree to relocate the events to an existing venue in Asia, Europe or North America, the official told The Associated Press on Saturday.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the request has not been made public.

The move would save $120 million in construction costs and $3-5 million in annual maintenance costs, and is in line with IOC President Thomas Bach's cost-cutting reforms, the official said.

The international federations for bobsled and luge are aware of the request and in agreement, the official said.

Korean organizers have so far resisted the IOC's push and continued to build their venue for the sliding events, which also includes skeleton, contending that the facility is important for Korean athletes, is sustainable, and will have a long-term use, the official said.

One option for relocating the event is Nagano, Japan, which hosted the 1998 Winter Games. But the official stressed the venue does not have to be in Asia, listing Europe and North America as other possibilities.

The U.S. has existing venues in the former host cities of Lake Placid and Salt Lake City, while Canada has former Olympic venues in Whistler and Calgary.

The IOC official said the request to the Koreans was made in the past few weeks. A solution could be reached when IOC officials travel to Pyeongchang in January for a review of Olympic preparations.

Cho Yang-ho, head of Pyeongchang's organizing committee, said earlier Saturday that Bach's reform program will offer ''a lot of opportunities'' to host cities.

''At this stage various ideas are pondered,'' Cho said, without giving details. ''After this session we will have a clear understanding about the new flexibility that Agenda 2020 provides ... and we will consult with the IOC.''

The full IOC meets on Monday and Tuesday to vote on Bach's ''Olympic Agenda 2020'' reform package, which includes measures to reduce the cost of bidding for the Olympics and hosting the games.

The vote comes amid heightened concerns over costs that led several cities to pull out of the bidding for the 2022 Winter Games, leaving only Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan, in the race.

The reform recommendations allow for events to be held outside a host country ''in exceptional cases, notably for reasons of sustainability.'' That would be the clause under which the 2018 sliding venue could be moved.

There has been a precedent for holding events outside the host country. Because of quarantine laws in Australia, the equestrian competition for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics was held in Stockholm. Equestrian events were held in Hong Kong during the 2008 Beijing Games.

Bach said Saturday that South Korean and Japanese Olympic organizers will be able to make changes to their venue plans for the 2018 and 2020 Tokyo Games if the moves cut costs and avoid white elephants.

''We are in discussion with the respective organizing committees about what the Olympic Agenda 2020 means for them,'' Bach said at a news conference following a meeting of his executive board. ''It can also be venue changes being discussed if such a venue change leads to more sustainability and leads to less expenses.''

A dispute over construction costs has raised worries about Pyeongchang.

Provincial and county councils recently issued a joint statement threatening to give up the rights to host the games if the central government doesn't commit to more financial support.

Pyeongchang organizers presented a progress report to the IOC executive board on Saturday.

''They told us they will deliver on time and on budget,'' Bach said.


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