It just wouldn’t be a countdown to the Olympics if there weren’t political drama. And it wouldn’t be an Olympics if the host country didn’t declare, essentially, there was nothing to worry about.
Case in point: The Pyeongchang 2018 organization claims it will continue preparations for the Winter Olympics unaffected after Park Geun-hye was officially removed from office as President of South Korea.
According to an article in Inside The Games, this comes hard on the heels of a warning to Pyeongchang from the IOC in which Coordination Commission Chariman Gunilla Lindberg noted that Pyeongchang 2018 risked “harming the image of their Olympic Games if they do not make swift improvements to both legacy plans and communications and engagement strategies.”
The IOC was honing in on the importance of selling tickets and building the buzz for the Games in the wake of an impeachment that had damaged the country’s morale and distracted from the mission of the city to deliver an Olympic event.
The crux of the impeachment proceedings was Park’s link to Choi Soon-si, her 60-year-old adviser, who exerted what was termed “undue influence” on policy-making, despite having no official Government role. An election for a new president will be held within the next 60 days – something that will further delay publicity efforts for the Games, just as it has delayed negotiations confirming the organizing committee budget for 2017.
An additional nightmare was the revelation that two supporters of Park were reportedly killed during clashes police as hundreds of protesters tried to break through barriers.
Still, officials at Pyeongchang 2018 say, the country is forging ahead.
“Pyeongchang 2018 remains committed and focused on Games preparations," spokesperson Sung Baik-you told Inside The Games. “We welcome the support all the political parties have shown us so far, and we are sure that they will be fully behind the Games as we work to ensure that the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games are the best they can be and are a wonderful showcase of Korea to the rest of the world.”
It’s a scene eerily reminiscent of something just last summer. Ahead of the Rio Games, Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, was stripped of her office in the culmination of a political crisis that left Latin America’s largest nation adrift, with an economy in deep recession and a public sharply divided over the country’s future. Rousseff had been impeached on arcane charges having to do with violating budget laws, making it yet another illustration of Rio as an Olympics in disarray.
High-profile problems in the run-up to the Olympics seem to have become alarmingly predictable. Rewind two years to 2014 and you’d find journalists live-tweeting their hilarious (and often gross) stories about a not- ready-for-prime-time Sochi on the eve of the 2014 Winter Games.
That, of course, also took place amid a backdrop of Sochi officials bravely declaring everything was moving along without problems – which led to widespread use of the famous .gif from “Animal House,” in which a police officer repeatedly attempts reassure a stampeding crowd with “Remain calm…all is well.” (It didn’t work for him either.)