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Volume 6 No. 212

Olympics

Hosting the Winter Olympics was "supposed to be another moment for South Korea to bask in the global spotlight" -- but "mountains of unsold tickets and the threat of provocation from the North are raising fears that next year's event is veering off-piste," according to Harris & Buseong of the FINANCIAL TIMES. Organizers said that the Games will "boost tourism" by showcasing the country as a snow sports destination, while the Hyundai Research Institute forecast the "two-week extravaganza will reap economic benefits" of almost $60B over 10 years. Three months before the opening ceremony, however, "Olympic fever has yet to strike," with only about one-third of the 1.1 million available tickets allocated. A lack of homegrown stars has "damped enthusiasm." Kookmin University professor Lee Dae-teak believes South Korea has lost the "sense of nationalism" seen at the country's previous two sports "mega-events." He said, "In the old days ... a Korean athlete winning a Gold Medal was thought to bring benefits to the country, so it was easy for the government to mobilize people. At that time, we believed sports could bring us many things, but now we realize the benefits are meager ... the economic benefits have been exaggerated." The Games have "also been hit by the national scandal this year that sparked the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye." Among the allegations thrown at Park were claims that her "shaman adviser," Choi Soon-sil, had benefited from Olympic-related contracts. Political commentator Lee Seung-won said, "Choi Soon-sil's involvement in some of the business of PyeongChang has made people reluctant to participate. The government's promotions started late and, honestly, South Koreans don't know much about winter Olympic events" (FT, 11/18).

A top Russian Olympic official said that Grigory Rodchenkov, the whistleblower who alleged the country ran a systematic doping program, "should be executed." Leonid Tyagachev, who was the head of the Russian Olympic Committee from '01-10 and remains its honorary president, said, "Rodchenkov should be shot for lying, like Stalin would have done." Tygachev's call for Rodchenkov to be shot "sounds extra chilling in light of the unexplained deaths of two of his colleagues" (London GUARDIAN, 11/17).

Russian Deputy PM Vitaly Mutko said that it would be "unacceptable and humiliating for Russia to take part in the Winter Olympics in South Korea without the national flag and anthem." The IOC is set to decide on Russia's participation in the Winter Games at its exec board meeting from Dec. 5-7. Russian athletes "may be only allowed to compete as neutrals at the Olympics due to doping allegations" (REUTERS, 11/17).

British Para-swimming staff complained about ex-coach Rob Greenwood's behavior in July '14, two-and-a-half years before he was investigated over "bullying and intimidation claims." British Swimming apologized last month after an independent investigation found he "created a climate of fear." Greenwood, who rejected the allegations, left his role before the inquiry began (BBC, 11/17).