MONACO (Reuters) - Pyeongchang 2018 winter Olympics organizers and two international federations are discussing the possibility of moving some sliding competitions from the South Korean city to Japan, sources within the Olympic movement said on Saturday.
Pyeongchang’s preparations for the first Asian winter Olympics outside Japan have been hit by budget problems and delays in some venues. A move to Japan’s sliding center would also be in line with planned IOC changes to make the Games cheaper and more sustainable.
“This suggestion is out there,” one source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters. “The two federations (luge and skeleton/boblseigh) and organizers are talking about this.”
It was not immediately clear what events would be moved and if they would be switched to the Nagano bobsleigh and luge park that hosted the competitions at the 1998 winter Olympics in Japan.
“It is an ongoing discussion,” another source told Reuters. “Nothing is final yet but there are discussions going on. Obviously it is not something that either side wants to really make public yet.”
Tensions between Japan and South Korea are currently high over Tokyo’s colonial rule of Korea and the issue of sex slaves.
South Korea has also been angered with the visit of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and repeated offerings to the Yasukuni Shrine that honors 14 Japanese leaders convicted as war criminals by an Allied tribunal, as well as Japan’s war dead.
IOC President Thomas Bach had earlier on Saturday said the IOC would review the Pyeongchang Games after it passes 40 recommendations on Monday and Tuesday at its session in Monaco.
These recommendations, called Agenda 2020, are aimed at turning the Games into a more attractive prospect while also giving host cities the chance of using facilities in other cities or countries if it makes financial and practical sense.
“As President Bach said at his press conference, Agenda 2020 is now shaping-up and a lot of opportunities will emerge that will benefit current and future Olympic and Paralympic Games organizers,” said Pyeongchang Games chief Cho Yang-ho in a statement.
“At this stage various ideas are pondered. After this session we will have a clear understanding about the new flexibility that Agenda 2020 provides all Games organizers and we will consult with the IOC.”
The two countries, despite their tensions, successfully co-hosted the 2002 soccer World Cup.
The IOC has said that any changes based on Agenda 2020 for already existing Olympic host cities would have to come from the organizers themselves and would need the green light from federations and the IOC.
Editing by Ed Osmond and Justin Palmer