By Duncan Mackay at the Windsor Atlântica Hotel in Rio de Janeiro

A special task force has been set-up to help Pyeongchang 2018 prepare for the Winter Olympics and Paralympics ©AFP/Getty ImagesPyeongchang 2018 and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) officials have agreed to form a special task to try to help get the Winter Olympics there get back on track and ease fears the event is facing trouble.

The Integration Working Group will include all the key stakeholders involved in the first Winter Olympics to be staged in South Korea, including the Government in Seoul and officials from Gangwon Province, where Pyeongchang is located.

Formation of the new Group was agreed after Pyeongchang 2018, led by President Cho Yang-ho, had made a presentation to the IOC's ruling Executive Board, who expressed concerns about the slow rate of progress.

Fears had been heightened earlier this month when International Ski Federation President Gian-Franco Kasper, who is also head of the Association of International Olympic Winter Sports Federations (AIOWF), claimed it would be "impossible" for test events to take place as scheduled because of problems with the planned venues.

Cho dismissed those fears and claimed he had reassured IOC officials everything would be ready on time.

''Everything is in time for any test event,'' Cho said.

''We assured the IOC that we are doing test events in time without any problems.''

Pyeongchang 2018 made a presentation today to the IOC's Executive Board in Rio de Janeiro ©IOCPyeongchang 2018 made a presentation today to the IOC's Executive Board i©IOC

Nevertheless, AIOWF will be part of the new Group, along with the IOC who will be represented by Gunilla Lindberg, head of the IOC Coordination Commission for Pyeongchang 2018, Olympic Games Executive Director Christophe Dubi and Chinese IOC vice-president Yu Zaiqing. 

The Group will convene at least once a month either in person or via video conference, it is anticipated, with the first meeting due to take place before Lindberg heads to Pyeongchang for the start of the IOC Coordination Commission visit on March 15.

It will have the power, Cho claimed, to make decisions without referring them to the IOC's ruling Executive Board for final approval. 

"We are on time but still not fast enough and we want to speed up," said Cho.

"We have to get approval of the federations and the EB and also in Korea we have to have a discussion with the Gangwon province and central government.

"We waste a lot of time negotiating domestically as well as with the EB and IOC and winter federations."

Among the topics that will be high on the Group's agenda will be venues, arrange test events, hire technical experts, and recruit domestic sponsors.

So far, Pyeongchang 2018 has signed up only four domestic sponsors and is several billion won short of its target. 

Cho led Pyeongchang's successful bid to host the Games before stepping down and returning last year following the sudden resignation of Kim Jin-sun, the former Governor of Gangwon Province.

Cho, one of South Korea's most successful businessman who is head of Korean Air, told insidethegames that Pyeongchang 2018 is "in negotiations" with several companies.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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