South Korea's Olympics Risk Global Flop With Unsold Tickets, N. Korean Fears
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).