The chief organizer of South Korea's 2018 Winter Olympics resigned Tuesday, citing escalating financial problems with his struggling shipping business.
Cho Yang-ho, the chairman of the Hanjin Group, which controls Olympic sponsor Korean Air, announced his resignation in a statement released by the Pyeongchang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (POCOG), South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported. Cho quit less than two years before the first winter games in South Korea are scheduled to take place in February 2018.
“For the past two years, I have truly put forward my very best efforts to work with every member of the organizing committee to prepare a successful Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in 2018,” Cho was quoted as saying in the committee’s English-language statement, which said that Cho wanted to walk out to handle “urgent matters” within his business group, including Hanjin Shipping, the country’s biggest container carrier.
Hanjin Shipping, which has been struggling with heavy debt, reportedly applied for a creditor-debt restructuring plan last week to avoid bankruptcy after it reported increasing losses due to sluggish demand in China.
Cho took over as president of Pyeongchang’s organizing committee in August 2014, when the event was dealing with construction delays and funding problems. At one point, the International Olympic Committee suggested that South Korea share some events with other countries such as Japan.
However, Cho managed to turn the situation around. Under his watch, the organizing committee hosted the first Olympic test event, the International Ski Federation (FIS) Alpine Skiing World Cup in Jeongseon, Gangwon Province, in February, Yonhap reported.
“I can proudly say that (organizing committee) has become a strong team, and the challenges we have overcome have allowed us to achieve success at our first official test events,” Cho said in the statement. “I am confident that the committee and the new leadership will move forward towards a successful 2018 Winter Games.”
The International Olympic Committee in 2011 picked Pyeongchang as the host of the winter games, favoring it over the German city of Munich and the French Alpine town of Annecy.