Olympics-Head of 2018 Winter Games scotches claims of delays

RIO DE JANEIRO - All venues for the 2018 Winter Olympics are on schedule and no events will be held outside host city Pyeongchang and nearby Gangneung, said the head of the Games as he refuted suggestions of delays.

"We are ready for test events and venues are on schedule," Cho Yang-ho told reporters on Friday after assuring the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that preparations in South Korea were on time "like airlines".

Earlier this month Gian Franco-Kasper, long-time International Ski Federation president and influential IOC member, said it was "almost impossible" for ski and snowboard test events to go ahead as planned.

Authorities also told Reuters they had discussed the possibility of moving some competitions to Japan.

Cho dismissed that idea after presenting an update on Korea's proposals to an IOC executive board meeting in Rio.

However, he said the executive board (EB) had agreed to turn over more decision-making powers to an integrated working group of the IOC, international federations, central and regional governments in Korea and the Pyeongchang organising committee.

The move will allow them to "speed up decisions and working efficiency".

"We are on time but still not fast enough and we want to speed up," said Cho before adding the group would meet almost every month, starting in March ahead of the co-ordinating committee's planned visit to Pyeongchang.

"We have to get approval of the federations and the EB and also in Korea we have to have a discussion with the Gangwon province and central government.

"We waste a lot of time negotiating domestically as well as with the EB and IOC and winter federations."

Cho said Pyeongchang was "redesigning some of the venues in an effort to reduce the cost" but did not give details of the sites or how much money might be saved.

He added the IOC wanted Korea to move faster to sign up domestic sponsors.

"It is not progressing fast enough," said Cho before explaining that announcements on commercial partnerships were due soon.

The Winter Games has 15 sporting disciplines in seven Olympic categories.