Kyusang LEE and Yeonghoo CHOI work as members of the PyeongChang Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. They are both from Gangneung, one of the main venues for the PyeongChang 2018 Games. We spoke to them about how their town has changed and the Olympic and Paralympic Games, to find out what they thought after being involved from the preparation stage of the Games.
This interview was held during the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Games.
Before they began, what did you think about the PyeongChang 2018 Games?
Kyusang LEE: I've been working with the Organising Committee in Communications for four years and a half. We spent that whole time preparing for the Games, but I was still worried about whether we'd prepared well enough, right up to the day before. Once the Opening Ceremony had finished and everyone reacted well, only then could I feel relief. As soon as the Olympic Games finished I looked back at the long time we spent preparing and it seemed like a dream. We're now working to make sure the Paralympic Games reach their Closing Ceremony without any problems.
Yeonghoo CHOI: I was born and bred in Gangneung and even went to university there. As a local, I had very high hopes for the PyeongChang 2018 Games. I was looking forward to seeing how the city would transform into a Games venue. Just before, I was concerned about the Olympic and Paralympic Games running smoothly, but once the Olympics were over people really seemed to rate it well, so I guess we can call it a success. There's only a little more of the PyeongChang 2018 Games left, but we're going to give it our all to make sure it finishes well.
How has Gangneung changed over these few years?
Kyusang LEE: Well, the high speed train has made a big difference. It isn't just for the Games – I'm looking forward to seeing how that will change things. Although Gangwon-do (the region around Gangneung) was an old region, the arrival of the Olympic and Paralympic Games has brought rapid development.
It has become a region known throughout the world. Up to now, if international visitors come to South Korea they go to Seoul, but now PyeongChang and Gangneung will be other options. I think that's great.
Yeonghoo CHOI: There have been lots of changes, but the biggest impact on people who live here has to be the infrastructure. To get to Gangneung from other regions you have to pass a large mountain range, so the high speed train makes that a lot easier. The same is true for getting from Gangneung to elsewhere. It's an inconvenient location, but thanks to the Olympic and Paralympic Games we'll be able to grow along with other regions. Gangneung now also has new sports venues, so we'll be able to use that legacy to hold global sports and other events. I'd like to see lots of people continue to visit even after the PyeongChang 2018 Games have finished, and for the region to become an area for tourism, utilising its local characteristics.
What was it like to be involved with the Olympic and Paralympic Games in a professional capacity?
Kyusang LEE: To be involved in the Olympic and Paralympic Games, an event that everybody knows about, was a real joy. When working in public relations at a normal organisation the target audience is somewhat limited. But publicising information on the Olympic and Paralympic Games is a global effort. There were some difficulties, but it was a great deal of fun. Being involved in the preparations for the Paralympic Games has also altered my view of para sports. The more I found out, the more respect I had for the sports and athletes, and the more I thought about how our environment might be improved to benefit the sports and day-to-day lives of people with impairments. I wasn't as aware of the issues until recently, so it was a good experience to be involved in something I hadn't been interested in before.
Yeonghoo CHOI: It prompted me to reconsider what sports are all about. I realised that sport has a unique potential, the power to create new culture and trends in a country. It prompts people, athletes, people with impairments, able-bodied people, men, women, young and old, to work together, and can elevate a country or region. I'd like to continue sending this message to people across the world.
Tell us about your hopes for the Tokyo 2020 Games.
Kyusang LEE: Before getting involved in the PyeongChang 2018 Games I didn't often go to watch sport, but now I really want to visit Tokyo. Japan has an image of having lots of new ideas. I was lucky enough to watch the Closing Ceremony at the Rio 2016 Games and the Flag Handover Ceremony was amazing. I'm looking forward to being surprised and seeing how far you'll exceed expectations.
Yeonghoo CHOI: I visited Sapporo once on holiday last year. I chose Sapporo as a destination because I wanted to see how a former Olympic city has changed. Next time I really want to visit Tokyo. Tokyo is already a huge, well-developed city, but I hope it can change for the better thanks to the Olympic and Paralympic Games.