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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

NY TIMES: South Korea to host 2018 Winter Olympics!


The Winter Olympics were awarded for the first time to South Korea on Wednesday as the city of Pyeongchang was named as host of the 2018 Games.

Pyeongchang had been a persistent candidate after finishing second to Vancouver in voting for the 2010 Games and to Sochi, Russia, for the 2014 Olympics. It had built its candidacy for 2018 on a proposal to expand winter sports in the lucrative Asian market.

The South Korean city won on the first ballot of a secret vote of delegates of the International Olympic Committee, prevailing over Munich and Annecy, France. Voting took place at a general assembly of the I.O.C. in Durban, South Africa.

Pyeongchang will be the third Asian city to host the Winter Games, after Sapporo, Japan, in 1972 and Nagano, Japan in 1998. Its budget for 2018 was far more extravagant than the other bids — $1.5 billion for the actual Games and $2 billion to $6 billion for infrastructure projects, according to news reports, as Pyeongchang seeks to become a winter sports hub.

The South Korean candidacy also enjoyed widespread public support, which the I.O.C. considers an important factor. Its compact plan to have all events within a 30-minute drive apparently was also appealing. And the Olympic delegates seemingly were swayed by the fact that South Korea’s president, Lee Myung-bak, traveled to Durban to make a personal pitch for the 2018 Games.

But the most persuasive factor in Pyeongchang’s bid may have been the chance to further expand the popularity of winter sports in a populous, financially lucrative region. Pyeongchang is located about 100 miles east of Seoul, which hosted the 1988 Summer Games.

The I.O.C. commission that evaluated the candidate cities said in its pre-vote report that placing the 2018 Games in South Korea would “be significant to further develop winter sports in Asia.”

In a final pitch to I.O.C. delegates on Wednesday, Pyeongchang’s bid leaders displayed a map showing that 19 of the previous 21 Winter Games had been held in Europe and North America, suggesting it was time to give Asia another chance. Wednesday’s vote was in keeping with recent attempts by the Olympics and the soccer World Cup to bring their events to places where they had not been previously held.

South Korea has shown its ability to organize major international sporting events over the past two decades. Seoul hosted the 1988 Summer Olympics. And South Korea co-hosted along with Japan the 2002 World Cup. Daegu, South Korea, will host the world track and field championships next month.

Lee, speaking in English, told I.O.C. delegates ahead of Wednesday’s vote, according to The Associated Press, that “Korea wants to give back to the Olympic movement and the world. Pyeongchang 2018 is a national priority of the Korean government and has been for the last 10 years. I guarantee you the full and unconditional support of the Korean government. We worked hard; we’ll make you proud.”

Source: New York Times