May 15, 2015

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) South Korea started its 1,000-day countdown to the 2018 Winter Olympics on Saturday with a variety of celebrations planned in the capital Seoul and around the host city of Pyeongchang.

Pop stars, classical artists and local sports icons like former Olympic figure-skating champion Kim Yu-na were booked for a lavish two-day ceremony in southern Seoul that will continue through Sunday.

Cultural events, festivals and fireworks were planned in Pyeongchang and nearby towns that share some Olympic venues.

''The 1,000 days out event will show (South) Korea and the world our passion and intentions to host a successful Olympic Winter Games,'' Pyeongchang's organizing committee said in a statement.

South Korea has much experience in hosting such major sporting events, holding the Summer Olympics in Seoul in 1988, co-hosting the soccer World Cup with Japan in 2002 and staging the Asian Games three times, including last year's event in Incheon.

Each event had been touted as a celebration of prosperity and the country's elevated international profile. However, the public sentiment surrounding big sporting events is no longer unanimously positive because of growing worries over costs, including the burden of maintaining venues that will have little use after the games. The South Korean government projects the Pyeongchang Olympics to cost more than 11 trillion won ($10 billion).

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