By Duncan Mackay

Alpensia Ski_Resort_with_jumperJuly 6 - Pyeongchang have unveiled several changes to their plans for the 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, including moving the Opening and Closing Ceremonies to a new venue.

Under the original plan the capacity at the ski jump facility in Alpensia was to be increased from 10,000 to 50,000 so it could be the centrepiece of the event. 

But, coinciding with the first anniversary of the South Korean city being awarded the Games, organisers have announced that they have now decided to move the ceremonies to the Gowon training ground in Hoenggye after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) warned that the preparations of the ski jumpers could be affected if it was held there. 

There were also fears about the health of the spectators in the predicted cold conditions. 

Jin Sun_Kim_holds_Pyeongchang_2018_press_conference_to_mark_one_year_since_awarded_Olympics_July_2012
"Through detailed analysis, it turned out that occupying the facility for the ceremonies could conflict with the training schedules of ski jump athletes and access to and from the ski jump is not ideal," said Kim Jin-sun (pictured above left), the President and chief executive of Pyeongchang 2018.

"We have decided to set up a new hub for the ceremonies, under the name Olympic Park in Hoenggae - just two kilometers away from Alpensia."

A special temporary 50,000-capacity venue will now be built on 80,000 square metres site will now be constructed in Hoenggye and dismantled after the Games. 

Pyeongchang 2018 has also moved the venues for speedskating and ice hockey.

The speedskating will now take place with the other skating events at Gangneung Sports Complex after space at the original site at the Gangeung Science Park became limited due to the number of local businesses taking the opportunity to relocate there.

The main complex for the ice hockey will remain at the Gangneung Sports Complex, as was proposed in the bid, but the secondary venue will no longer be at Youngdong University gymnasium.

It instead will be relocated to another location within Gangneung in order to provide the adequate space to include all the necessary facilities and overlay needed at Games time, Pyeongchang 2018 claim.

A proposal to hold the ice hockey in Wonju was rejected, however, even though the Gangneung Sports Complex is due to be moved there after the Games. 

"[Pyeongchang 2018's] vision for the Games has always been a compact venue plan that would serve the needs of the athletes, it was decided to stick to the original plan and adopt new construction technologies that will allow for the venue to be easily dismantled and then relocated to Wonju after the Games," they said in a statement.

Mount Gariwang
But perhaps the most controversial decision involves a venue that is staying where it was originally proposed.

Jungbong, one of the stand-alone venues proposed during the bid, has been confirmed as the site for the downhill skiing despite opposition from local environment groups.

It followed a decision by the Korea Forestry Service (KFS) to desginate Jungbong as one of the "Forest Genetic Resource Protection Areas".

But, following a review by the KFS, they have now controversially reversed their decision and removed Jungbong from the protected list.

"The adjustments are inevitable in order to deliver the athlete-and Games-oriented concept that we had promised in the bid," said Kim.

"Since bringing the Winter Games to Korea last year, we have laid the foundations and the road map for the successful hosting of the Games in accordance with our vision of transforming Gangwon Province into a winter tourism hub in East Asia.

"In the past year, the Pyeongchang Organising Committee has been established, a Special Act was approved to support preparation works, the ground for the Wonju-PyeongChang-Gangneung high-speed rail link was broken, and the designing of the competition venues has begun."

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