SEOUL (Reuters) - Olympics chief Thomas Bach conceded that major sporting events like the 2018 Winter Games will always carry some form of security risk but said on Wednesday he was confident that South Korean authorities would keep athletes safe in Pyeongchang.
The South Korean alpine town will host Asia’s first Winter Olympics outside of Japan in less than three year’s time.
Relations with volatile North Korea are often strained and tension between Seoul and Pyongyang has been rising recently after two South Korean soldiers were injured by a landmine in the heavily-fortified demilitarized zone, which has divided the two Koreas since the end of their 1950-53 war.
“Security is a top priority for the Olympic Games,” Bach told reporters at a news conference in Seoul.
“Unfortunately, we are living in a world where every big event, be it sport or otherwise, has challenges with regard to security. So do the Olympic Games.”
Bach said he was confident South Korea’s security forces would coordinate closely with other countries’ authorities to do “everything in their power to protect the athletes and the Olympic Games”.
Bach, who will next travel to Beijing for the start of the athletics world championships on Aug. 22, praised Pyeongchang organizers (POCOG) for their progress and said he was impressed by South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s commitment to the Games.
“We had a very successful visit here in Korea and in Pyeongchang and I can say that we see preparations for the Olympic Winter Games 2018 really being on track,” the German added.
Concerns about costs and construction setbacks had raised speculation late last year that some of the events might have to be moved away from Pyeongchang, perhaps even to Japan.
But preparations are now in full swing, with construction on venues coming along and major South Korean companies such as Samsung, Korean Air and LG agreeing to pour in funds to support the Games.
South Korea’s two biggest automakers, Hyundai Motor Co. and its affiliate Kia Motors Corp, also signed on as sponsors this week, providing vehicles and pumping in cash to help with the running of the multi-sports event.
Writing by Peter Rutherford; Editing by John O'Brien