International Ski Federation President Gian-Franco Kasper has admitted he does not expect many spectators to attend events at next year’s Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang.
The Swiss, head of the Association of Winter Olympic International Federations and member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board, told FrancsJeux he believes Europeans spectators have been put off from travelling to Pyeongchang by the current political tension in the Korean Peninsula.
He claimed, however, that Pyeongchang would be the “safest place in the world” during the Winter Olympics and Paralympics.
Although he said he was not concerned, Kasper is not very optimistic that ticket sales for the Games will improve significantly in the months and weeks leading up to the Opening Ceremony on February 9.
Kasper warned attendances for events such as skiing, where South Korea does not have a strong heritage, are likely to be the most sparsely-populated events at the Games.
In a sales update in October, it was revealed that only 30.3 percent of the 1.07 million tickets organizers hope to sell for next year’s Games have been snapped up.
The update also revealed that as little as 20.7 percent of the 760,000 tickets available for the South Korean general public have been sold.
Kasper told FrancsJeux that he hopes the South Korean population will attend disciplines where they “shine”, such as speed skating.
Asked whether he was concerned about the ticket sales for Pyeongchang 2018, the 73-year-old said: “Not at all.
“I will tell you the truth: I do not expect too many spectators at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.
“The current political crisis in the region does not encourage Europeans to travel to South Korea.
“I hope that the Koreans will come to see the competitions, but I think they will rather attend the disciplines where they can shine, like skating.
“For skiing, do not expect a large influx.
“South Koreans may find solutions, they will bring schools.
“But for Europeans, do not wait for the big crowd.”
Kasper, a member of the IOC’s Coordination Commission for Pyeongchang 2018, claimed that the low attendances will not affect the sport.
He insisted skiing’s main chance of developing its profile is through television coverage.
“I remember a Snowboard World Championship in South Korea in 2009, where we were three people in the finish area,” Kasper added.
“The public is not everything.
“While there may not be many in the arrival areas, the development is mainly through television.
“And there, all the signals are green.
“The organizers did a great job.
“They are ready and I am optimistic.”
By Liam Morgan
Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz.