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(LEAD) Alpine skiing venue officially opens for competition

All News 14:10 January 22, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS details, comments throughout)
By Yoo Jee-ho

JEONGSEON, South Korea, Jan. 22 (Yonhap) -- A South Korean alpine skiing venue for an upcoming Winter Games test event officially opened Friday, two days after receiving its approval from the sport's international governing body.

The Jeongseon Alpine Centre, the venue for the International Ski Federation (FIS) Alpine Skiing World Cup on Feb. 6-7, was declared ready for the competition in an opening ceremony.

Jeongseon, some 210 kilometers east of Seoul in Gangwon Province, will be among the sub-host cities of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. These cities will stage international events in the months leading up to the actual Olympics to test their venues.

Men's downhill and Super-G races will take place at the new Jeongseon course, the first of 28 test events in Olympic and Paralympic sports. The schedule includes five world championships.

The course runs 2,648 meters and drops 825 meters. It's currently about 60 percent complete -- still enough to host the World Cup race -- and is scheduled to be fully finished by December 2017.

Construction for the Jeongseon Alpine Centre appeared to fall behind schedule as recently as December, owing to administrative snags and inclement weather, prompting the FIS and also the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to express concern.

Workers won their battle against time, and on Wednesday, Guenter Hujara, technical expert for the FIS, said the slope was ready to host the skiing competition.

Cho Yang-ho, head of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics organizing committee, said getting the course ready for the World Cup was "a small miracle."

"Amid concerns about damaging the environment and unusually warm winter weather, there were understandably a lot of doubts, and it wasn't easy to break ground on the venue," Cho said at the opening ceremony. "We've overcome a lot of adversity to be able to host the test event on time. We'll prepare for this competition like an actual Olympic race, and hopefully we'll create a boom for the Olympics with a successful World Cup."

Kim Jong-deok, minister of culture, sports and tourism, rejected the notion that building the alpine course amounted to an "ecological disaster."

"I think it's too strong of a word, and it's not as though an alpine skiing course would just drop from the sky," Kim said. "We were simply trying to meet FIS requirements for an Olympic venue. And we've never had an alpine course of this size. If we had, we wouldn't have had to build a new one. We're discussing ways to restore the area with environmental groups."

In his congratulatory remarks, Hujara said he had no doubt the athletes will fall in love with the new venue.

"I just came down the race course in the morning, and I can tell you that Jeongseon is a race course that can easily compare with other Olympic and classic World Cup courses," he said. "In the beginning of February, we'll see that the best athletes in the world really perform on a highly developed race course."

Hujara added that the course features "a very nice flow of the terrain, many rolls, jumps and high-speed sections" that will test the world's top skiers.

Cho chimed in and called it a "technical and challenging course."

"It will require a lot of techniques and skills," he said. "I can confidently tell you that the course can be a nightmare for the competing athletes, but will be an entertaining one to watch for the spectators."


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