A gondola lift built especially to access a downhill ski run also created especially for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics is to be dismantled, with an attempt made to restore the forest through which both were built to its former state.
The creation of the lift and ski slope on Mount Gariwang especially for the Olympics caused great controversy as it involved chopping down ancient trees in what was supposed to be a protected national park. The destruction, which appeared to run counter to stated IOC aims of minimising environmental impact, resulted from the need to build a ski run with a greater vertical than any existing ski run in South Korea to meet IOC requirements for the Olympic downhill course. Suggestions to increase the height of the existing biggest vertical slopes in the country to meet this target were discounted.
Oddly, South Korea appeared to have been awarded the games without a final decision having been made on this conundrum.
Environmental groups were outraged at the plan to build the lift and carve the run through unspoilt, ancient woodland and the plan was only approved with an agreement to restore the site to its previous state after the games.
In the three years since the Games ended however there have been disagreements over who was responsible for the costs, put at greater than the construction costs, to remove the infrastructure and restore the forest. Different government bodies at a regional and national level sought to shift responsibility from one to another. Environmental groups have kept up the pressure that the original agreement be honoured and acted upon.
Now the central South Korean government is reported to have stepped in and insist the original plan to remove the lift and reforest the area is honoured …by 2024.
The government has asked, the Gangwon provincial government, which has jurisdiction over Pyeongchang, to form a team to draw up a plan for the forest’s restoration and begin consultations with the environment ministry and the Korea Forest Service before the end of the year. However it says the lift can continue to run until 2024 at the latest.