South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa on Saturday toured venues for the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games together with foreign diplomats and businessmen to tout ongoing preparations for the South Korea-hosted winter sports event.
Nearly 100 diplomats from foreign missions in Seoul and 15 foreign businessmen as well as 24 U.S. service members, including U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) commander Vincent Brooks, were on board the high-speed train in Seoul station early Saturday, reports Xinhua news agency.
It took less than two hours to get to Gangneung, an eastern coastal city in Gangwon province near the host city of PyeongChang.
The new Korea Train Express (KTX) line from Seoul to Gangneung, with a distance of about 220 km, had yet to open, but it was scheduled to be opened in December.
Trains were conducting a pilot operation in the new railway to make tourists from around the world get comfortable in visiting the Winter Olympic venues. The line will be linked from the Incheon International Airport in the western port city of Incheon via the Gimpo International Airport.
The train can stop at PyeongChang as well as Jindu station and Gangneung station near the host city. Non-stop trains from the Incheon International Airport to PyeongChang will be run throughout the Winter Olympic period for foreign spectators and visitors.
The PyeongChang Winter Olympic was scheduled to kick off on February 9 next year, lasting until 25th. The Paralympic Games would follow from March 9 to 18th in the namesake city.
Kang told reporters inside the train that she hoped to let diplomats here naturally know how comfortable and enjoyable going to PyeongChang through this bullet train will be.
After arriving at Gangneung, the group moved by bus to tour the Gangneung Hockey Center, an indoor arena which will host the men's ice hockey event during the Winter Olympic and the ice sledge hockey competitions for the Winter Paralympic.
Kang trotted with quick steps right after getting off the bus, increasing her distance from accompanying diplomatic missions. She stopped halfway and said, "My expectation (for the venue) was so high" that she unwittingly walked fast.
The visitors toured Gangneung Oval, an indoor arena where the speed skating competitions will be held during the Olympic period, before moving to the PyeongChang county to look around the main stadium, where the opening and closing ceremonies will be performed for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The seven-story main stadium is a pentagonal arena to symbolize five visions of the PyeongChang Olympic, such as peace, culture, environment, economy and information and communications technology (ICT).
The PyeongChang Olympic Stadium, which has a seating capacity of 35,000, was still under construction, but it was almost completed. Finishing touches were being made, while subsidiary facilities should be built as late as January next year.
The tour group was guided by Lee Hee-beom, chief of the PyeongChang organizing committee, who told Xinhua that PyeongChang has a total of 12 competition venues, including six existing ones and six new ones.
As the Winter Olympic ends, the six newly-built stadiums would be owned and managed by public corporations and the private sector.
Among the six new ones, the ownership of three stadiums were already decided upon. The remaining three venues would be handed out to the private or public sectors after consultations with the government, according to the top organizer.