KSOC President Lee Kee-heung said Seoul had "spared no effort" to ensure the ANOC General Assembly was a big success ©ANOC

Korean Sport and Olympic Committee President Lee Kee-heung has heralded the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) General Assembly here as the "start of a new beginning" for his country after being gripped by the COVID-19 pandemic for more than two years.

Lee said South Korea was preparing to stage its "first major international event" since the onset of the global health crisis in early 2020 and insisted it had "spared no effort" to ensure it was a big success.

Seoul had been originally scheduled to host the ANOC General Assembly in 2020 before the event was cancelled because of the pandemic.

The South Korean capital was then set to hold the key annual gathering last year only for strict COVID-19 measures to force ANOC to move it to Greece.

Restrictions have since been eased in the Asian nation, allowing hundreds of sporting officials to make their way for the ANOC General Assembly that is due to run from Wednesday (October 19) to Thursday (October 20).

"It is a great honour to welcome the leaders of sports to Korea," said Lee.

"Especially, as this event will mark the start of a new beginning after more than two years of hardship caused by the pandemic.

"Through these hardships, we have learned that the Olympic community is always ready to help each other and stand in solidarity.

"The ANOC General Assembly is a wonderful display of this unity.

"As the first major international event following the pandemic, the Korean Sport and Olympic Committee has spared no efforts to prepare for a successful General Assembly.

"A dedicated task force has been working day and night to ensure that all delegates will feel welcomed in the city of Seoul.

"With the support of our many partners, including Seoul Metropolitan City, the National Federations, and the local sports councils, I can say with confidence that this event will mark a new start of the international sports calendar."

A total of 204 National Olympic Committees are expected to attend the ANOC General Assembly, with more than 190 due to travel to Seoul and the rest participating online.

Lee said the hybrid format ensured that all NOCs would be able to take part in the meeting.

"For a long time, we all had difficulties visiting each other at international events due to the travel restrictions imposed following the pandemic," said Lee.

"In the beginning, we worked together with the Government to find a solution to the challenging situation of welcoming all delegates to Korea.

"In the end, I am very glad that international travel has become more accessible and that the NOCs are able to join us here at the General Assembly."

Most of South Korea's COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted prior to the ANOC General Assembly  ©Getty Images
Most of South Korea's COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted prior to the ANOC General Assembly  ©Getty Images 

Seoul is set to stage the ANOC General Assembly for the third time having played host in 1986 and 2006.

South Korea also welcomed NOCs when Seoul hosted the 1988 Summer Olympics and Pyeongchang staged the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Lee said Pyeongchang 2018 was a "showcase of unity" that had taken the interest in winter sports to "new heights in Korea and abroad."

"The Korean Sport and Olympic Committee is dedicated to building on this legacy and promoting the value of sports," said Lee.

"As a leading sports nation, we want to display the strength of Korean sports and contribute to the Olympic Movement through various sports events and competitions.

"I hope this General Assembly is an opportunity to further strengthen our ties and friendship.

"I trust that all delegates enjoy a taste of the Korean culture during the most beautiful season of the year, feel the warm hospitality, and enjoy the culture of Korea.

"I look forward to welcoming you back to Korea at the upcoming Gangwon 2024 Winter Youth Olympic Games."