SEOUL, South Korea — Cho Yang-ho, the South Korean business tycoon who led Pyeongchang’s successful bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics, will take charge of the local organizing committee following the sudden resignation of the previous president.
The Hanjin Group chairman was unanimously elected in a meeting of 94 committee officials on Thursday and will serve out the remainder of Kim Jin-sun’s scheduled term as the Pyeongchang organizing committee president, which was due to expire in October next year.
Kim quit last week saying new leadership was needed to complete preparations for the games.
"I feel heavy responsibility," Cho told reporters after his election. "I’ll do my best to achieve a successful hosting of the Olympics based on my experience as the bid committee chairman."
Kim’s departure sparked media speculation that he may have been fired amid concerns about construction delays and domestic sponsorship problems.
South Korea’s government audit agency said last week it had conducted a special audit on the organizing committee over its preparations for the Olympics. Audit officials said the weeks-long investigation assessed financing and management and said the results of the investigation were expected within three months.
Cho’s election requires endorsement by the sports minister, which is considered a formality, committee official Jung Dong-young said.
Cho was head of Pyeongchang’s bid committee when it won the right to bring the Winter Games to South Korea for the first time. He is a vice-president of the Korean Olympic Committee and has been president of the Korea Table Tennis Association since 2008 and vice-president of the Asian Table Tennis Union since 2009.
He is also chairman of Korean Air Lines Co., South Korea’s largest carrier. The family owned Hanjin Group, one of the major business conglomerates in South Korea, is the biggest shareholder of Korean Air Lines Co.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach welcomed the quick appointment of Cho and said he was pleased the successful businessman was dedicating himself "to this important national project."
Cho’s election "underlines the importance that the Republic of Korea and the Korean sports movement places upon the success of the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games," Bach said. "I welcome him back to the Pyeongchang team. I am sure that he will deliver great Olympic Winter Games for the athletes in 2018."
Cho will meet Bach and IOC Coordination Commission leader Gunilla Lindberg in China next month at the Youth Olympics.
IOC officials who visited Pyeongchang recently expressed no major concerns about preparations for 2018.
Lindberg said the IOC already had a good working relationship with Cho through his work on the bid committee.
"I look forward to reinforcing our already strong links over the coming three-and-a-half years, as we work to deliver great Olympic Winter Games," Lindberg said.
Preparations for the last Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia came under heavy scrutiny for construction delays. The IOC has already taken measures to help speed up preparations in Brazil for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.