|Novelist Lee Oi-soo speaks at a news conference after being named a honorary ambassador for the 2018 Winter Olympics. (Yonhap News)|
The organizing committee for the 2018 Winter Games said Lee will be asked to share his wisdom as PyeongChang, a resort town some 180 km east of Seoul, prepares to stage the country’s first Winter Olympics.
Kim Jin-sun, head of the organizing committee, said Lee had been a “mentor” for PyeongChang for all of its three bids for the Winter Olympics, including the first two bids it lost to Vancouver, Canada, and then Sochi, Russia.
“He is quite knowledgeable about the Olympics,” Kim said. “He has his own special vision, philosophy and conviction on why PyeongChang deserves to host the Olympics and how we should go about it.”
Calling the appointment an “honor,” Lee said he looked forward to showcasing PyeongChang and South Korea to the rest of the world.
“Winter Olympics are held in the coldest season of the year, and I hope the PyeongChang Games will be the chance to show that Koreans have the warmest hearts in the world,” Lee said. “I hope our Winter Olympics will touch many hearts and promote the pure spirit of the Olympics.”
The 66-year-old was once voted the country’s best writer in a poll conducted by an online bookstore. Lee, known for his eccentric, Taoist appearance, wears a long ponytail and dresses in a white traditional hanbok suit.
As of Monday, Lee had more than 1.5 million followers on Twitter, where he shares his thoughts on issues including politics, economy, literature, music and sports.
Lee said he will take advantage of his popularity on social network services and added, “Each one of my followers will be an honorary ambassador” for PyeongChang.
Asked about his favorite winter sports, Lee said he grew up skating on ponds in Inje, Gangwon Province, and still has a great deal of interest in skating events.
He also said he hoped South Korea would do better in skiing events.
“I have high expectations for our skiers,” Lee said. South Korea has never won an Olympic medal in alpine or freestyle skiing events. “Hopefully, we can have good results in PyeongChang and that will further raise our profile.”
PyeongChang last year was chosen as the first South Korean host of a Winter Olympics, beating Munich, Germany, and Annecy, France, in the International Olympic Committee vote. It built its case on promoting winter sports in Asia and organizing a compact Olympics.