SEOUL (Reuters) - Former South Korea trade minister Lee Hee-beom moved a step closer to becoming the new 2018 Winter Olympics chief after the Pyeongchang organizing committee (POCOG) unanimously approved his candidacy on Thursday.
Lee is now awaiting final approval from the country’s ministry of culture, sports and tourism before officially taking up the role next week.
POCOG said in a statement Lee was expected to begin work on Monday and begin by making a two-day trip to Pyeongchang and the coastal city of Gangneung to check on Olympic venues and preparations.
“The Pyeongchang 2018 Games is a historic project that will showcase the development of Korea to the world and put Pyeongchang’s name on the map as a major winter sports hub,” said Lee.
“I will fully devote myself to deliver a successful Games in 2018.”
Lee is set to replace Hanjin Group Chairman Cho Yang-ho, who stepped down last week in order to focus on the management of the troubled Hanjin shipping business.
While Lee 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 served as South Korea’s trade minister from 2003-06 and has also held high level positions at the Korea International Trade Association and Korea Employers Federation.
The sudden departure of previous chief Cho 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 IOC said it was confident POCOG would continue to work through preparation issues and that South Korea would host an “excellent” Winter Games.
Reporting by Jee Heun Kahn, writing by Peter Rutherford; Editing by Nick Mulvenney