Q: Name the site of 2018 Winter Olympics

SEOUL • As test events start this week for the 2018 Winter Olympics, host Pyeongchang is facing the uncomfortable truth that it is a place not many people have heard of, except in news reports linking it to the snowballing corruption scandal engulfing President Park Geun Hye.

The isolated South Korean ski resort remains resolutely off-piste - and can also be confused with the North Korean capital, Pyongyang.

But organisers hope Pyeongchang's profile will rise after a five-month programme of test events starting with a snowboard World Cup competition this week. To help differentiate it from Pyongyang, the authorities have "re-branded" the resort as PyeongChang, with an upper-case C.

"The biggest challenge at the moment is how to promote the Games over the world, because this is a small place," the head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Coordination Commission on Pyeongchang, Ms Gunilla Lindberg, said last month. "It's not Rio de Janeiro and it's not London."

And it is also quite remote. Arrivals at South Korea's main Incheon international airport face a 250km journey to the other side of the peninsula. But a high-speed rail link to Gangneung - a coastal city 40km east of Pyeongchang - is expected to open in July next year.

The launch of ticket sales has been postponed until February as organisers hope for a recognition bounce from the busy winter schedule.

Initial preparations were dogged by construction delays and funding shortages, so bad that one point the IOC considered moving some events to other countries such as Japan.

The situation turned around after Korean Air chairman Cho Yang Ho took over as head of the organising committee in 2014, bringing in some big corporate sponsors and getting the infrastructure schedule back on track.

But he stepped down abruptly in May, expressing a desire to focus on his ailing shipping business.

Allegations have since emerged that he was pressured to resign after refusing to award an Olympic contract to a firm linked with a close friend of Ms Park.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 23, 2016, with the headline 'Q: Name the site of 2018 Winter Olympics'. Subscribe