By Duncan Mackay at the Windsor Atlântica Hotel in Rio de Janeiro 

South Korean President Park Geun-hye, meeting IOC head Thomas Bach, has urged major companies to back Pyeongchang 2018 ©IOCSouth Korean President Park Geun-hye has brought together some of her country's biggest companies and urged them to support the 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Pyeongchang amid growing unease about the slow pace of preparations for the Games.

The lack of sponsorship is expected to be among several topics raised by the International Olympic Committee's ruling Executive Board when it meets Pyeongchang 2018 President Cho Yang-ho at its three-day meeting which starts here today.

"We urgently need the interest and assistance of the business community for a successful Pyeongchang Winter Olympics," Park told a meeting of some of South Korea's most powerful business leaders.

The group included Lee Jae-yong, vice-chairman of Samsung Electronics Co., who are an Olympic TOP sponsor, and Chung Eui-son, vice-chairman of Hyundai Motor Group, the world's fifth-largest carmaker.

This is the second time this year that Park has publicly intervened in preparations for Pyeongchang 2018.

In January she had backed calls from Gunilla Lindberg, head of the IOC's Coordination Commission for Pyeongchang 2018, that construction work needed to be speeded up if everything was going to be ready in time.

Earlier this month, International Ski Federation President Gian-Franco Kasper, who is also head of the Association of International Olympic Winter Sports Federations, claimed it would be "impossible" for test events to take place as scheduled because of problems with the planned venues.

Pyeongchang 2018 dismissed his fears. 

But one senior IOC official told insidethegames here that they believe Pyeongchang 2018 are at a less advanced stage than Rio 2016, whose preparations were criticised last year as the "worst" ever, was at this point.

Another fear for the IOC is the apparent lack of interest in Pyeongchang 2018, both in South Korea and internationally. 

Clothing company North Face are among the companies who have signed up as sponsors of Pyeongchang 2018 but now there is a race on to find more ©Pyeongchang 2018Clothing company North Face are among the companies who have signed up as sponsors of Pyeongchang 2018 but now there is a race on to find more ©Pyeongchang 2018

Four South Korean companies have so far pledged KRW254.9 billion (£148 million/$229 million/€202 million) to Pyeongchang 2018, several billion won short of the figure projected at this stage. 

In December, The Board of Audit and Inspection of South Korea, showed a massive shortfall in predicted sponsorship revenue that has left Pyeongchang 2018 dependent on loans from the Government.

According to the audit results, Pyeongchang 2018 had set its budget plans with an assumption that it would be able to earn KRW17.5 billion (£102 million/$158 million/€130 million) and KRW 67.5 billion (£392 million/$611 million/€501 million) in 2013 and 2014 each from sponsorship incomes.

But in 2013 it did not make anything and last year earned only KRW3.5 billion (£20.3 million/$31.6 million/€25.9 million), 5.2 per cent of of the expected income.

It instead borrowed KRW11 billion (£64 million/$99 million/€82 million) last year and KRW10.5 billion (£61 million/$95 million/€78 million) this year.

Since Pyeongchang was awarded the Winter Olympics and Paralympics by the International Olympic Committee at its Session in July 2011, ahead of rivals Munich and Annecy, they have borrowed KRW18.7 billion (£109 million/$169 million/€139 million) more than predicted from the Government.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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