International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach, who has built a friendly image with finger hearts and casual selfies whenever he visits South Korea, has hailed the Gangwon Winter Youth Olympic Games 2024 (Gangwon 2024) as a success and expressed his gratitude and congratulations to Gangwon Province and the Games Organizing Committee.
Speaking to reporters at the Main Media Center (MMC) at the Gangneung Green City Experience Center ahead of the Gangwon 2024 Closing Ceremony, Bach said, “The Games made good use of the legacy of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics.” He added, “I was very impressed to see the youth athletes compete in the facilities where the Games were held six years ago.”
In particular, Bach praised the men’s and women’s silver medals won by Tunisian and Thai athletes in the bobsleigh monobob (single-seater), who became Winter Olympians through PyeongChang’s “soft legacy,” the DREAM Program. “Thanks to the PyeongChang Olympics, which broke ‘new ground,’ 14 athletes from the DREAM Program will compete at Gangwon 2024, bringing a special sense of solidarity to the world.
The Dream Program was launched in 2004 as part of PyeongChang’s bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics and was organized by the PyeongChang Memorial Foundation and sponsored by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Gangwon Special Self-Governing Province.
Many of the athletes who participated in the project, which is designed to provide experience and training programs in skiing and skating for youth in developing countries with limited access to winter sports, and to promote cultural exchange and global friendship through sports, grew up to become winter sports prodigies in their respective countries.
“To ensure the success of the Games, the IOC also provided $37 million (approximately 49.3 billion won) to the Gangwon 2024 Organizing Committee, including $25 million in operational funding, $10 million for athletes’ accommodation and $2 million in grants,” said Bach.
“As of the 28th of last month, 30% of South Koreans watched Gangwon 2024 on TV and 75% were aware of Gangwon 2024,” he said. “In the U.S., millions of people watched the Games on NBC and talked about Gangwon 2024 on social platforms, which is a remarkable achievement.”
The number of mentions of Gangwon 2024 on social platforms such as social media was 250 million, which is unprecedented for a youth Olympic Games, Bach added.
Bach said the broadcast technology and new platforms tested at Gangwon 2024 will be utilized at the Paris Summer Olympics in July.
“The athletes and the Olympic family are very satisfied with Gangwon 2024,” Bach concluded, “and if the athletes use it as a stepping stone to the adult Olympic Games, it will help them prepare for that event without being intimidated.”
Bach said the host of the next Winter Youth Olympic Games in 2028 will be decided and announced later this year or early next year.
As a result, there will be no ceremonial handover of the Olympic flag to the next host country at the closing ceremony on Monday.
Overwhelmed by the hospitality of the volunteers, Bach left the MMC and presented them with a specially designed IOC badge featuring a pentacle in the shape of a heart and posed for a photo with them.