Having done events in Korea for many years, I have had a number of phone calls from clients looking for help for the 2018 Winter Olympics. To date, I have taken numerous trips to Pyeongchang to scout out the region for venues, hotels, warehouses, staffing, supplies and more. Each time I go there to talk with city officials and people from the different committees, I am told, "It's coming. We're building it." It's this "wait and see" technique that I think will cause a major headache before next year. In short, is Korea ready for the Olympics? Well...let's wait and see.
I hope so and from living in Korea for so many years, I know that, generally, it'll all work out. But before it can work out, there has to be fight, a struggle, an argument, a totally embarrassing oversight, etc. I am not trying to offend anyone here, I just know that that's the case. I find the best way to survive this is to be prepared and work out as many "Plan B's" as possible.
To date, there are not enough hotels nor rooms in the city. There are also not enough venues for all of the different events and corporate groups. The train line from Seoul has yet to be finished and who knows if the roads they have prepped will be enough for the millions of spectators for the winter olympics.
Terrible motels in the city which normally rent out for $40 usd night will jump up to $320 USD during the olympic period and wedding halls that normally can be had for $5000 usd per wedding are being auctioned off to clients.
The price wouldn't matter if the venues were worth it. However, they are shoddy and outdated with empty promises of renovation.
It all looks pretty grim for the olympics and I am in the thick of it trying to plan, get supplies, employees, rent out venues and get rooms. I am a bit disappointed with the way the people are acting since this should be a chance to show off how wonderful the country is. Instead it seems like people are planning for their retirement.
So...am I worried?
What I know about Korea is that it will get done and it will be done frantically when the glacial government and organizing groups will push to get projects done. It will get done and it will look good. We can't have Koreans losing face after all. The country will unite and the Olympics will be a success.
If you are a group that is overpaying now understand that the market will correct itself. There are so many people building in the area that it has to. Those who are buying now, thinking it will save them, will have a surprise coming up. I'm working on the big things that can't be arranged at the last minute like logistics, equipment, imports and staffing. Everything else will fall into place.
Daniel Gray is a Korean-American Adoptee that returned to Korea in 2005 to rediscover his roots. He is a Korean food expert that has appeared on Bizarre Foods, Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain and more. He is the president of Delectable Travels and owns two restaurants: Brew 3.14 and Brew 3.15 in Seoul.