Ex-trade minister Lee set to become 2018 Games head

Wed May 4, 2016 7:00am EDT
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SEOUL (Reuters) - Former South Korea trade minister Lee Hee-beom has been nominated as the new president of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics organizing committee, POCOG announced on Wednesday.

Lee will be officially elected at the body's general congress on May 12 and will then need the final approval of the country's ministry of culture, sports and tourism, POCOG said in a statement after its executive board meeting.

Once elected, Lee will replace Hanjin Group Chairman Cho Yang-ho, who stepped down on Tuesday in order to focus on the management of the troubled Hanjin Shipping.

While Lee, 67, brings little in the way of sports administration experience to the role, his business ties are likely to help organizers meet sponsorship targets with Asia's first Winter Games outside Japan less than two years away.

Lee, who served as South Korea's trade minister from 2003-06, has also held high level positions at the Korea International Trade Association and Korea Employers Federation.

Cho's sudden departure on Tuesday cast a shadow over preparations for the Games as the 67-year-old had won praise for bringing in high-level sponsors and getting venue construction on the right track.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC), while noting the progress made since Cho took over in 2014, was confident POCOG would continue to work through preparation issues and that South Korea would host an "excellent" Winter Games.

(Writing by Peter Rutherford and Sudipto Ganguly; Editing by John O'Brien)

A flag bearing the logo of 2018 Winter Olympic Games lies on the ground at the proposed site of the Olympic Stadium near the Alpensia Resort in the mountain cluster of PyeongChang February 10, 2015.   REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski