The Gangwon Winter Youth Olympic Games 2024 (Gangwon 2024) was not only the first Winter Youth Olympic Games in Asia, but it also had the added value of carrying on the legacy of PyeongChang.
In the stadium that attracted the world’s attention six years ago, the future ‘winter stars’ showed their passion, and the event was completed without much noise thanks to the operation and support of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Gangwon Province, and the organizing committee.
Gangwon 2024, which kicked off on the 12th of last month, will conclude its 14-day run with a closing ceremony at 8 p.m. on the 1st in front of the Gangneung Hockey Center Auxiliary Stadium in Gangneung, Gangwon Province.
The Games were held in four cities – Pyeongchang, Gangneung, Jeongseon, and Hwangeong – with seven games, 15 sports, and 81 events.
The other three cities, with the exception of Hwangeong, were hosts of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, utilizing the same venues and facilities that hosted the Games six years earlier. The cost of hosting the Games was significantly reduced.
Gangwon Province has emerged as a center for “winter sports” after successfully hosting the Games six years ago. The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism invested a lot of manpower to avoid a repeat of last year’s highly criticized ‘jamboree’, and the organizing committee added a sense of stability by appointing Choi Jong-koo, a former economic bureaucrat who served as chairman of the Financial Services Commission, with just 50 days to go before the start of the Games.
The box office exceeded expectations. All competitions and events were free to attend except for the opening ceremony, and the popular figure skating, short track, speed skating, and ice hockey events drew large crowds every day. This is encouraging considering that most of the youth-level events were held during the day.
Kaori Kakiuchi, the mother of Haru Kakiuchi, who competed in figure skating at the Games, commented on social media that “Korea was a really warm country, with people helping me with my baggage when I got off the KTX, or trying to show me how to open a door if I kept waiting in front of a door that wasn’t automatic, or explaining it to me in Japanese.” “The stadiums were also filled with support, which I’ve never experienced even at Japanese competitions,” she said.
However, since all tickets were free and booked in advance, there were a lot of no-shows. The organizers announced the number of spectators based on advance tickets, and there were many cases where the stadium was empty even though tickets were sold for a near-full crowd.
Also, interest in sledding and snowboarding events was still low. Unlike Gangneung, which hosted the ice events, it was hard to feel the excitement of the Youth Olympic Games in the other three cities.
Still, the youth athletes who competed at the Olympic venues will be able to use the experience to make big strides in the future. There were several athletes who could make their mark at Milan-Cortina d’Ampezzo 2026 in two years’ time.
Speedskaters Angel Dahleman (NED) and Finn Zonnekalb (GER), biathletes Antoine Guy (FRA) and Maya Barositz (AUT) swept to three gold medals in alpine skiing.
Among the “legacies of PyeongChang” were human resources. Twenty-five athletes from nine countries (Thailand, Taiwan, Mongolia, Singapore, Brazil, Colombia, Jamaica, Kenya, Tunisia, Brazil, Colombia, Jamaica, Kenya, and Tunisia) from underdeveloped and developing countries in winter sports, nurtured through the Dream Project organized by the PyeongChang 2018 Memorial Foundation, took to the ‘dream stage’.
Among them, Jonatang Lourimi (Tunisia) and Kampheol Agnes (Thailand) of the men’s and women’s bobsleds, respectively, won silver medals to become the first medalists for their countries.