December 23, 2016 / 5:59 AM / a year ago

Soccer-Gangwon FC make top flight leap at Olympic ski jump venue

SEOUL, Dec 23 (Reuters) - After securing promotion to the Korean top flight and sealing some huge off-season signings, Gangwon FC hope to make a flying start to their upcoming K League Classic campaign by playing home games at the 2018 Winter Olympics ski jumping venue.

Gangwon turned the landing area at the Alpensia Ski Jumping Centre in Pyeongchang, the host of the 2018 Winter Games, into a pitch for four matches in the Korean second tier last season and plan to use it as their home ground next year.

Seating for almost 11,000 fans surrounds three sides of the pitch, with two towering ski jump ramps making a spectacular backdrop to the area behind one of the goals.

Asia’s first Winter Olympics outside Japan will see the coastal city of Gangneung host figure skating, curling, ice hockey, speed and short-track skating events while Pyeongchang, some 180 kilometres east of Seoul, will stage mountain events.

Lee Hyun-yong, a public relations official at Gangwon FC, told Reuters the club would take measures to help fans get to the venue.

“If you look at Pyeongchang within Gangwon province overall, it is in a location where it connects with other cities, so it won’t be more difficult for fans to get to the stadium,” he said by telephone.

“We are also planning to run shuttle buses to various cities in Gangwon Province such as Chuncheon and Gangneung so that it is more accessible for fans.”

A statement from the club earlier on Friday said the venue was “ideal for holding sports tournaments.”

“The ski jumping venue is located... 700 metres above sea level, and the average temperature in summer is about 21.9 degrees Celsius (71.4 degrees Fahrenheit),” the club said.

Relegated in 2013, Gangwon have made some big moves in the transfer market to ensure they stay up next season, bringing in Korea’s reigning MVP Jung Jo-gook from Gwangju as well as former Asian Player of the Year Lee Keun-ho.

PR official Lee said it was unlikely any of the Gangwon players would be tempted to try out the ski jump.

“Due to safety precautions, we don’t think it’s possible for our players to use the ski jump, but we are considering various events to utilize the jump tower for cultural events,” he added. (Writing by Peter Rutherford; Editing by John O‘Brien)

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