The 2018 Winter Olympics are just five months away, but ticket sales suggest that attendance is not highly anticipated. Many have speculated that the reasoning for slow sales is this year’s location: PyeongChang, South Korea.
Tickets for the winter games went on sale in February, and organizers set a million-plus spectators as their total goal with an expectation that 70% of those will be locals. During the early ticket sales phase between February-June, only 52,000 seats were sold to South Koreans- less than 7% of the 750,000 target. International sales were a bit better- fans bought up over half of the 320,000 allotted seats- but this was still weaker, on average, than the typical Winter Olympics sales at this point. This is especially true for Japan and China, who South Korean Olympic organizers thought would account for the bulk of international sales. Fans from the neighboring countries bought far fewer tickets than expected.
Slow ticket sales could be due to the tense political climate in North Korea. The games, held in the city of PyeongChang, will take place 50 miles from the South/North’s heavily armed border. The president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, assured fans that there is “no reason for any immediate concern” back in August. Shortly after that statement, the North Korean regime launched a ballistic missile over Japan and detonated what they claimed was a hydrogen bomb. More recently, they tested two more intercontinental ballistic missiles and their strongest ever nuclear bomb.
Given this information, it’s understandable why people would have concerns. South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, and sports minister, Do Jong-hwan, have both pushed for collaboration between the countries for this year’s winter games. Jong-hwan suggested that the North could host some skiing events at Masikryong ski resort, as well as form an inter-Korean women’s ice hockey team. Jae-in said North Korea would be given as much time as necessary to make a decision on their participation.
South Korean officials have said that they believe participation from North Korean athletes would reduce any chance of disruption remarkably, but little progress has been made on either collaborative initiative. The best news thus far has come from Lee Hee-beom, president of the Pyeongchang organizing committee, who told reporters in Seoul that there were “signs” that North Korea would take part. Hee-beom added that “sports are sports, and we should not confuse sports with politics”.
For more information on the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, visit the official website here.