Winter Olympics: Three Olympics in a row will be boon for Asian giants

Singapore short-track speed skater Lucas Ng's last event of the year was the ISU World Cup in Gangneung - the 2018 Olympic test event. Snowboarders checking out the jump slope during a practice session for the FIS Snowboard World Cup Big Air event at
Snowboarders checking out the jump slope during a practice session for the FIS Snowboard World Cup Big Air event at Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre in Pyeongchang, 150km east of Seoul on Nov 24. That was a test event for the 2018 Winter Olympics.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Singapore short-track speed skater Lucas Ng's last event of the year was the ISU World Cup in Gangneung - the 2018 Olympic test event. Snowboarders checking out the jump slope during a practice session for the FIS Snowboard World Cup Big Air event at
Singapore short-track speed skater Lucas Ng's last event of the year was the ISU World Cup in Gangneung - the 2018 Olympic test event. PHOTO: VIC SENT POK

The world's eyes will be on Asia as it takes charge of the next three Olympic Games - Summer and Winter - the first time the continent will host the prestigious event for three straight editions.

Even as it provides Asia with a platform to showcase itself to the world, it will also serve as a prime opportunity for collaboration between the three East Asian host nations - South Korea, Japan and China.

"It is unprecedented for Asia to host three Olympics in a row," said South Korea's Minister for Culture, Sports and Tourism Cho Yoon Sun.

"The Olympics can be an opportunity to deepen relationships between our countries."

She was speaking during a media briefing for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and Paralympics, giving updates on Games preparations on a panel that included Lee Hee Beom, president and chief executive of the Games organising committee.

The session ended on Monday.

After Pyeongchang, Tokyo will take over Olympic hosting responsibilities for the 2020 Summer Games while the Winter Games move to Beijing in 2022.

The proximity and similarities in climate between Pyeongchang and Beijing, for one thing, will mean the former will serve as an optimum preparation location for athletes in the lead-up to the 2022 Games, said Ms Cho.

She also called on the three East Asian host countries to make use of this chance to work closely together, whether in terms of sharing knowledge, promoting the region or in strengthening ties.

Referring to the Seoul Olympics in 1988 as a catalyst for unity in the post-Cold War climate then, Ms Cho said she believes the three successive Olympics in Asia can also help provide positive momentum for the continent.

"Our governments have had meetings starting from last year, so that we can make the most out of this opportunity," she said.

"The three countries can share know-how with one another, and help to develop mutual legacies of the Olympic Games."

She added that sports exchange programmes for women and youth are in the works. Cultural programmes will also be looked into.

"We have distinct culture elements with deep history, but I believe South Korea, China and Japan also share many similarities in culture. We can host cultural events together and share our deep cultural heritage."

Already, Pyeongchang 2018 chief Lee said organisers of the Beijing 2022 Games have been making frequent visits. He said: "They have come to benchmark their Games against ours. They're interested in learning lessons from us so that they can apply it in their Games."

Lee also gave assurances that Pyeongchang will be ready for the Games in February 2018.

Most of the competition venues are nearing completion, with the Gangneung Ice Arena successfully hosting the short-track speed skating World Cup as a test event last weekend.

The non-competition venues which are under construction are also expected to be ready in time. Test events will continue to be held until April next year.

Said Lee: "The International Olympic Committee has given its approval for the Gangneung Ice Arena and we've also gotten acknowledgment from overseas visitors.

"We are making smooth progress in preparation."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 22, 2016, with the headline 'Three Olympics in a row will be boon for Asian giants'. Print Edition | Subscribe