About 1,900 young athletes from 80 countries to compete over two weeks
By Jhoo Dong-chan
About 1,900 young athletes from 80 countries will compete in the Gangwon 2024 Youth Olympic Games for two weeks from Jan. 19 in Gangwon Province.
Under the slogan of “Grow Together, Shine Forever,” they will compete in 15 events in seven different sports, the organizing committee said.
It marks the first winter youth sporting event in Asia and the largest ever in terms of size of the participants, as it will host about 15,000 staff including the athletes aged between 15 and 18.
The committee pledges to offer quality facilities and lodgings.
“Good hygiene is a must,” Prime Minister Han Duck-soo said during his visit to the venue, Jan. 4. “We should always be ready for unexpected issues and ensure that we support young athletes to perform their best.”
Like the Winter Olympic Games, the young athletes will compete in seven different sports — ice skating, ice hockey, curling, skiing, biathlon, bobsleigh and luge.
The games played on ice will take place in Gangneung and those played on snow will take place in PyeongChang, Jeongseon and Hoengseong. Athletes will compete in the ski jump and biathlon in PyeongChang and Hoengseong will host freestyle skiing and snowboarding, while Jeongseon is the venue for alpine skiing.
The committee places top priority on safety during the event, with more than 4,000 staff, including volunteers, preparing to work during the two-week event.
“Many of them served as staff during the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games,” a committee official said. “Their experience will play a vital role in the upcoming youth Olympics.”
About 1,700 security guards will be deployed around the venues not only during the games but also throughout the opening and closing ceremonies. “They will closely monitor crowd flow, identify possible fire hazards, patrol the venue and attend to other safety details,” he added.
To help keep athletes and visitors warm, the committee has updated each venue’s heating system and prepared sufficient extra winter kits. It has also taken measures to minimize outdoor waiting times.
About 250 medical staff will be on standby at 13 medical bays near the venues. Gangneung Asan, Wonju Severance Christian Hospital and Jeongseon Medical Center will also support the medical staff.
Each venue features rapid antigen test kits and face masks will be available to minimize risks of possible respiratory infections. Five testing areas are also on standby near the athlete village and restaurants.
South Korea’s next-generation figure skating talent Shin Jia will participate in the event. A silver medalist at the International Skating Union Junior Grand Prix final in December, Shin is the first Korean figure skater to stand on the podium for two consecutive seasons since South Korean figure legend Kim Yuna.
Snowboarder Lee Chae-un is another rising star. He joined the national squad when he was 14 for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games. In March, Lee won the Federation of International Skiing (FIS) Championship in the men’s halfpipe to become the first Korean gold medalist in skiing and snowboarding events.
Snowboarder Choi Ga-on is another notable young athlete. Like Lee, the then 14-year-old won the FIS Championship in the women’s halfpipe in March. Now, she is the youngest athlete participating in this year’s youth Olympics.
Bobsleigh prospect So Jae-hwan is another prodigy drawing high expectations. In March, he achieved the feat of winning the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation OMEGA Youth Series in the monobob twice in a row, starting from the third round.
To offer different types of attractions to participating athletes and visitors, the committee will operate the Play Winter Zone, a festival program near the youth Olympics venues.
Gangneung Ice Hockey Center hosts the Play Winter Zone at night to offer a DJ party on ice. National short-track star Choi Min-jeong and former national figure skater Park So-youn will also provide lessons at the center.
The Gangwon 2024 Winter Youth Olympics ambassadors Yoon Sung-bin and Kim Yuna are scheduled to host a public talk at PyeongChang Olympic Museum during the games. Table tennis legend Ryu Seung-min will also join the event.
“Hosting the Gangwon 2024 Youth Olympic Games, Korea becomes the first Asian country to host the summer, winter and youth Olympics,” the committee official said. “Like the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup and 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games, we will do our utmost for its success.”
This article is a joint work between The Korea Times and Gangwon 2024 Youth Olympic Games committee. — ED.