Seung Min Ryu, the Republic of Korea’s 2004 Olympic table tennis champion and a member of the IOC Athletes’ Commission, updates athletes on preparations for the upcoming Olympic Winter Games

The high point of Seung Min Ryu’s glittering table tennis career was his gold medal in the men’s singles at the Olympic Games Athens 2004. Two years after his playing career drew to a close in 2014, Ryu became the first table tennis player, and just the second Korean, to be elected to the IOC Athletes’ Commission. As he tells us in this exclusive interview, he’s currently heavily involved in preparing for the Olympic Winter Games – which take place in his home country in February 2018.

Tell us about your role with the IOC.
In 2016, I became an IOC Member, and I’m now a member of three commissions: the Athletes’ Commission, the Marketing Commission and the Athletes’ Entourage Commission. Athletes are at the centre of all the commissions – everything we do is related to athletes’ issues.

Have you enjoyed working with the other IOC Athletes’ Commission members over the past 12 months?
It has been a really, really good experience. Before I became an IOC Member, I only focused on the field of play – but now my challenges are off the field of play.

What role have you played in the preparations for the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018?
My biggest role is as a representative of the athletes: delivering their message to the PyeongChang 2018 Organising Committee (POCOG), and then supporting them during the Games. I try to be a bridge between the IOC, the athletes, POCOG and the Korean Sport & Olympic Committee. We all know and we all agree that athletes are at the heart of the Olympic Movement and the heart of the Olympic Games, so that’s always a main point on our agendas at POCOG.

What will the IOC Athletes’ Commission be doing to enhance the athlete experience in PyeongChang?
We will represent all athletes at PyeongChang 2018, in every area: for example, Games management, transportation, even some competition management. We’re doing our best to communicate with athletes and listen to their voices.

What can athletes expect from the host country?
Athletes will experience our cultural traditions and a special atmosphere. I think they will see and experience our miracle – this is a small region with some very big achievements. And they will also experience the Korean people’s passion for the Olympic Winter Games.

What cultural or food recommendations can you give to athletes to help them make the most of their time in the Republic of Korea?
There are many things – at POCOG, we are setting up some tourism programmes that athletes can experience after they’ve competed. Food? PyeongChang is very famous for Korean-style beef steak – it’s really, really delicious, with an amazing taste. Athletes should definitely try it!