PyeongChang ticket sales down as Winter Olympics less than 100 days away
By: Tyson Lautenschlager
The long awaited 2018 Winter Olympics are a mere 100 days away.
As the wait for the Olympics gets shorter, the list of questions surrounding possible security risks regarding the games in PyeongChang, South Korea get longer. This seems to have had an affect on ticket sales. According to a Reuters report, only about a third of tickets have been sold for the prestigious world event.
For the Sochi games in 2014, more than 70 per cent of tickets were sold before the opening ceremonies, compared to only about 32 per cent being sold for these games.
The low ticket sales have South Korean business owners concerned.
“It’s a bummer,” 55-year-old motel owner Oh Young-whyan told Reuters. He said he spent about $360,000 refurbishing his 15-room property close to the Olympics Plaza.
The reason many believe to be behind low ticket sales is the ongoing security threat from the South’s North Korean neighbours. The Canadian Olympic Committee (COC), however, insists the games will be as safe as any other Olympic event.
“There’s just as many security concerns as any other Olympics. We’re in constant communication with the RCMP and Global Affairs Canada. The important thing to know is that Global Affairs and the Government of Canada have not changed the security status on PyeongChang, South Korea,” said COC communications director Photi Sotiropoulos. “In our assessment, it’s just as safe to travel to South Korea as any other country.”
The Olympics, particularly the Winter Olympics, typically get a large turnout from Canadian fans, no matter where the games take place. Sotiropoulos doesn’t expect the 2018 games to be any different.
“Anybody who has ever gone to the Olympics knows how safe the environment is and how secure it is when you get on site,” he said. “We trust that Canadians will travel and support our athletes regardless of the North Korean situation.”
Elliot Tepper, Distinguished Senior Fellow for the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University in Ottawa, said that South Korea is generally a safe place to travel, though the proximity to North Korea’s border may be affecting people’s decisions.
“South Korea is extremely hospitable. It’s hosted major international events in the past successfully,” he said. “The concern now is whether North Korea will try to take action to disrupt the games in some way by increasing tensions. However, it’s highly unlikely they would initiate any military actions or covert actions that would in turn invite retaliation against them. It’s not in North Korea’s interests to start a war.”
While the Canadian Olympic Committee believes the games to be safe, not all countries have the same frame of mind. France’s sports minister Laura Flessel said in a September radio interview that the French Olympic team will “stay at home” until international security can be assured.
Meanwhile, two North Korean figure skaters have qualified for the Olympics. Ryom Tae-Ok and Kim Ju-Sik trained in Montreal over the summer, but it’s still unclear if the North Korean government will allow them to compete.