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The glitches begin

Feb 07,2018
With only two days left before the opening of the Feb. 9-25 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, concerns are growing over the safety of local food in the Olympic villages. After 36 out of 41 security guards on Tuesday were confirmed to have been infected with the highly contagious Norovirus, some of the foreign aides sent by the International Olympic Committee to help stage the Winter Games are complaining of symptoms of diarrhea.

One can get the Norovirus from an infected person, contaminated food or water. The virus causes stomach pains, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting. As the virus panic spreads fast, some of the infected people turned out to have handled security at the Olympic village, which rings alarms over the management of hygiene conditions during the Games.

On Tuesday, health authorities took the emergency measure of isolating 1,200 security staff members — who were staying in Pyeongchang, where the Norovirus contagion started — and deployed more than 900 soldiers to replace them. But the authorities can hardly avoid public criticism because they launched a fact-finding investigation and epidemiological inspection on Monday — four days after the first symptoms appeared. Because the virus is very active in low temperatures and spreads fast among people, it must be controlled early on. According to local media outlets, the accommodations used by people infected with the virus had received negative assessments for their hygiene conditions from health authorities. That shows shoddy preparations in the Olympic village.

That’s not all. Olympic volunteers are increasingly complaining about poor lodgings, meals and transportation. A rehearsal on Saturday of the opening ceremony revealed a few problems, as seen by a considerable number of local residents who left the scene due to the freezing cold. The stadium used for the opening ceremony does not have a roof.

Even with two days left, sports experts grumble about a lack of public interest in the athletes and the games. The Moon Jae-in administration deserves criticism for failing to promote the Games by focusing too much on fielding a joint women’s hockey team with North Korea and arranging other events like the performances of a North Korean art troupe, including singers, dancers and cheerleaders. The PyeongChang Olympics is an international sports festival. That is much more than an inter-Korean event. Sending a political message of harmony between South and North Korea to the rest of the world may have been important, but we are responsible for successfully staging the Olympics as a sporting event. All parties involved must do their best up until the last minute.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 7, Page 30