SPORT

In Just Five Months There's An Olympics Scheduled On A Rogue State's Doorstep

The Pyeongchang, South Korea, Winter Olympics start February 9, 2018.

04/09/2017 5:49 PM AEST | Updated 04/09/2017 9:04 PM AEST
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In five months time, the 2018 Winter Olympics are scheduled to take place in Pyeongchang, a mountainous region of South Korea less than 100 km south of the North Korean border (see map below).

Google maps
Pyeongchang County is the shaded area in red in eastern South Korea.

That's right, one of the world's biggest sporting events will happen on the doorstep of the regime which has just conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test to date, and which is boasting of missile-ready nuclear weapon.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull assessed the situation on Monday morning and said it posed the greatest threat of conflict since the Korean War ended 64 years ago. Meanwhile U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has warned of a "massive military response" if the U.S. or any of its allies are threatened.

So how might this escalating tension affect Games preparations? And what steps are the Australian Olympic Committee taking as it prepares to send 50 athletes?

HuffPost Australia put that question to Ian Chesterman, chef de mission of the Pyeongchang Games.

WILLIAM WEST via Getty Images
After the last two Olympics in Sochi and Rio, AOC chief John Coates and chef de mission Ian Chesterman must be wishing the Games could be held somewhere uncomplicated for once.

"The AOC is of course following the political situation on the Korean peninsula, but we rely on advice from DFAT in Australia as well as the IOC as to what the security issues are in South Korea, and for now we are very comfortable with the planning for the Games," Chesterman said.

"Over the coming months we will continue to take advice from DFAT and the IOC as the safety of our Team is always of the highest priority. We have very good channels of communication established.

"The PyeongChang organising committee has done a wonderful job preparing for the Games and we are very much looking forward to participating there come February next year."

Australia is planning to send around 50 athletes to the Winter Games. It will be our strongest ever team, and boasts at least 12 genuine medal chances, including:

  • Torah Bright, Winter Olympic gold and silver medallist in snowboard halfpipe;
  • Lydia Lassila, Winter Olympic gold and bronze medallist in aerial skiing;
  • David Morris, Winter Olympic silver medallist in aerial skiing;
  • Danielle Scott, who was the second best aerial skier in the world last season;
  • Scotty James, snowboard halfpipe world champion;
  • Alex Pullin, dual world champion in snowboard cross;
  • Britt Cox, mogul skiing world champion;
  • Matt Graham, a winner on the mogul skiing world cup circuit, who this reporter captured at Perisher in NSW last week doing his very impressive thing.

Australia's main medal chances will all be in action at Bokwang Phoenix Park, pictured below.

AFP/Getty Images
This picture taken on February 18, 2017 shows a general view of Bokwang Phoenix Snow Park, the venue of the freestyle skiing and snowboard events for the upcoming PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games. Aussie athletes are already calling it "The Wang".

Pyeongchang is not actually a town or city, but a county in South Korea's Gangwon province. Olympic sports will be held in two main clusters -- one in the mountains in and around the ski resort of Alpensia (where the opening and closing ceremonies will be held) and one in the coastal city of Gangneung.

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