By Nick Butler at the Lakai Sandpine Resort Hotel in Gangneung

Officials at today's signing ceremony between Korean Air and Pyeongchang 2018 ©ITGKorean Air has been unveiled as an official Tier One partner for the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Games here today, as similar deals with many other companies were promised for later this year. 

Under the agreement, the company will take responsibility for Passenger Air Transportation Services, providing "optimum air travel services for Games-related personnel including participating athletes and coaches, staff, judges, and members of the Olympic Family". 

The agreement, which follows a call for more South Korean companies to support the Games from the host nation's President Park Geun-hye, is a welcome boost for Pyeongchang 2018 head Cho Yang-ho, the businessman who also chairs Korean Air.

"We are happy to have Korean Air as our sponsor," he said this morning before the partnership was officially signed.

"I am confident that this sponsorship agreement will stimulate other Korean companies to join us as sponsors."

Several concerns have been expressed about the lack of major backers, with an audit last December revealing a massive shortfall in predicted sponsorship revenue that had left the organisers dependent on loans from the Government.

Speaking at a meeting of some of the nation's most powerful business leaders last month, Park insisted they "urgently need the interest and assistance of the business community for a successful Pyeongchang Winter Olympics".

Pyeongchang 2018 and Korean Air head Yang-ho Cho speaking at this morning's announcement ©ITGPyeongchang 2018 and Korean Air head Yang-ho Cho speaking at this morning's announcement ©ITG

This lack of sponsors was also thought to be discussed at last month's International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board meeting in Rio de Janeiro, after which a special task force was convened to "speed up" preparations.

But, speaking at the official opening of the IOC Coordination Commission visit immediately after the signing ceremony here this morning, Cho claimed to be "talking to many companies" and that he is "confident this is just the beginning of many more positive announcements this year".

Cho, who replaced Kim Jin-sun as President last July, has served as chairman and chief executive of Korean Air since 1999.

In that time, the airline giant has become heavily involved in sport, sponsoring the national men's volleyball, women's table tennis and men's speed skating squads, as well as the Daegu 2011 World Athletics Championships and last year's Asian Games in Incheon.

"Korean Air will be a key partner to the Pyeongchang 2018 Organising Committee and provide strong support in Korea for the Games operations and air transportation needs," added IOC Coordination Committee chair Gunilla Lindberg.

"The agreement is another sign of the importance of backing of the Korean business community for the success of the Games, and demonstrates the positive progress the Pyeongchang 2018 team are making in this regard."

Contact the writer of this story at nick,[email protected]

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