Olympics-2018 Games chief says contracts clean, as scandal bleeds into sport

Tue Nov 8, 2016 2:50am EST
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By Peter Rutherford and Ossian Shine

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) - Pyeongchang's 2018 Winter Olympics contracts are clean and not "contaminated" by outside factors, the Games' organizing chief told Reuters on Tuesday, as South Korea's sporting community is dragged deeper into a political influence-peddling scandal.

The scandal blighting Park Geun-hye's presidency involves her close friend Choi Soon-sil, who is alleged to have used her relationship with the president to meddle in state affairs and wield influence in the sports and cultural communities.

Choi has been charged with abuse of power and fraud while a former aide has been charged with abuse of power and extortion after they helped raise $68 million from dozens of the country's biggest conglomerates on behalf of two foundations.

One of the foundations is 'K-Sports', which is involved in projects such as building facilities and developing sporting talent for Olympic and Asian Games.

Local media have also linked Choi to companies that were awarded lucrative contracts for the 2018 Games, Asia's first Winter Olympics outside of Japan.

However, in an interview with Reuters on Tuesday in Pyeongchang, POCOG President Lee Hee-beom said he had carried out an internal probe and had found no evidence of any external influence on the contract process.

"I can say that the POCOG organization, and also the contracts within our organization, were not contaminated, were not influenced by outside factors," Lee, a former government minister for trade, industry and energy, said.

"Most of the tenders for procurement were done through the public tender process, which cannot be affected by outside factors.   Continued...

The mascots for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics "Soohorang" and "Bandabi" (R) are seen during their launching ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea, July 18, 2016. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji