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Joint Games will cost South close to 4 trillion won

Dec 19,2018
A joint 2032 Summer Olympics in Seoul and Pyongyang will cost South Korea almost 4 trillion won ($3.5 billion), according to an estimate by the Seoul city government released on Tuesday.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government included the projection in a bill seeking approval for a bid to co-host the 2032 Summer Games with Pyongyang that Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon submitted to the city council last Thursday. The bill estimated that the South would need around 3.86 trillion won to hold a total of 33 sporting events over 15 days across the Korean Peninsula, including opening and closing ceremonies, renovation costs for venues and accommodations for competitors. According to the bill, Seoul and the South Korean government would each assume 30 percent of that total, or around 1.16 trillion. The remaining 40 percent would be covered by the event’s organizing committee through proceeds from advertisements and sponsorships.

The big caveat, however, is that this estimate does not include the expenditures needed to build and maintain the infrastructure for the Olympics, so the actual price tag is expected to be much higher. The recent PyeongChang Winter Games cost 13.5 trillion won and the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo is expected to cost Japan upwards of $25 billion. It is also unclear how much North Korea would pay for the Games, or whether it will be able to take up any costs at all. The country’s nominal GDP in 2017 was estimated at around $32 billion, a small fraction of the South’s, based on statistics from the Bank of Korea. A joint bid to host the 2032 Summer Olympics was one of the landmark agreements reached by South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during their third summit in Pyongyang in September. It was encouraged by the success of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in launching a detente on the peninsula last February.

The South Korean Sport & Olympic Committee and its North Korean counterpart are currently deciding which cities would be part of their bid for the 2032 Games. They are likely to choose Seoul and Pyongyang due to their symbolic roles as the countries’ capitals. Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon has repeatedly expressed an interest in the joint Olympic bid. He said earlier this month that it was his idea to put a joint Olympics on the agenda for the third summit last September in the first place.

On the governmental level, the two Koreas are ramping up efforts to get the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on board with the bid. The South and North agreed in a second round of sports talks last Friday to meet with IOC representatives in Lausanne, Switzerland, early next year.

If the bid succeeds, Seoul, Pyongyang and several other cities on the Korean Peninsula will have to accommodate an estimated 28,000 athletes, organizers and other personnel, not to mention millions of spectators, based on the city council bill’s estimates.

The rewards of hosting the international event, the bill stated, would be much greater than its costs, leading to an increase in investment and consumer spending. It added that the Olympics would help South and North Korea cooperate “for the sake of peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula, as well as the world.”

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]