Pyeongchang Beats Munich, Annecy for 2018 Winter Olympics

Pyeongchang Beat Munich
South Koreans cheer during a night rally to support Pyeongchang's bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, 180 kms east of Seoul, on July 6, 2011. Photographer: Jung Yeon-Je/AFP/Getty Images)

Pyeongchang will host the 2018 Winter Olympics after beating Munich and Annecy, France, in its third bid to bring the event to South Korea.

The town, located in the Taebaek mountains 130 kilometers (80 miles) east of Seoul, won in the first round of voting by International Olympic Committee members yesterday in Durban, South Africa. Pyeongchang had lost out on the 2010 and 2014 Winter Games, which went to Vancouver and Sochi, Russia.

Pyeongchang, which used Olympic figure skating champion Kim Yuna and Samsung Electronics Co. Chairman Lee Kun Hee to lobby support, makes South Korea the second Asian nation to host the Winter Olympics. Japan staged the event in Sapporo in 1972 and Nagano in 1998.

“I believe Pyeongchang winning the bid will also help accelerate establishing peace on the Korean peninsula,” South Korean President Lee Myung Bak told reporters in Durban prior to the vote. “Winter sports aren’t enjoyed widely in Korea or other parts of Asia. It is my mission to help winter sports be widely enjoyed in this region.”

Hosting the 2018 Games will directly add 21.1 trillion won ($19.8 billion) to the South Korean economy, Hyundai Research Institute said in a report published this week. Benefits from increased tourism and raising the profile of the nation and its corporate brands will indirectly add a further 43.8 trillion won to the economy in the 10 years after the Olympics, according to the report.

Fireworks, Celebrations

“The fact that this was the third time definitely played a role,” IOC President Jacques Rogge said at a news conference. “We were impressed with the improvement over the years.”

Pyeongchang received 63 votes in the balloting, with Munich getting 25 and Annecy seven. A simple majority, 48 votes, was needed for victory. The award brought fireworks and celebrations in South Korea, where it was after midnight.

Pyeongchang has already received investment of a $1.4 billion Alpensia Resort intended to house the IOC hotel and the media village for the Winter Games. A $3.4 billion project will upgrade and complete a high-speed train linking the city with Seoul’s Incheon international airport by late 2017.

The Olympic city will also require six more venues -- an alpine ski run, two ice hockey rinks, a sliding venue with two runs and a speedskating oval.

“The city already attracts more than 1.5 million foreign visitors per year to its winter sports,” Olympic bid committee communications director Theresa Seung Yun Rah said.

“New Horizons”

Running under the slogan “New Horizons,” Pyeongchang’s bid highlighted that the world’s most-populous continent has held only two of the 21 previous Winter Games.

South Korea, which hosted the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, was the fifth-ranked nation at last year’s Winter Games in Vancouver with 14 medals. Kim’s figure-skating gold and three championships in speedskating brought a wider audience for winter sports in South Korea, which in previous Games had the most success in short-track speedskating.

Each of the three bidders would have been successful as hosts, an IOC study concluded in May. Pyeongchang received glowing marks after the assessment of the venues, travel arrangements, finances, accommodation, transportation and security.

“Overall, the commission believes the legacy from a 2018 Pyeongchang Games, building on existing legacies from previous Olympic Winter Games bids, would be significant to further develop winter sport in Asia,” the report said.

Silver Medal

Munich was vying to become the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Olympics, having staged the 1972 Summer Games.

“Obviously we are disappointed, but in a competition like this there is no runner up or silver medal,” Jochen Farber, communications director for the Munich bid, said.

Pyeongchang was the favorite to win, with a 66.17 chance of success versus 65.83 for Munich, according to an index a week before the vote by, a website that tracks the selection process.

“This came as a huge shock, especially the low number of votes we got,” Pauline Rousseau of the Annecy bid committee said. “All we can do now is go back and look to see where we went wrong.”

Pyeongchang offered a compact venue plan, with 13 competition sites linked by road and rail all within 30 minutes of the athletes’ accommodations, according to the IOC’s report in May.

As many as 93 percent of Pyeongchang residents supported the bid, while 91 percent of South Koreans also wanted the Winter Games, the organizing committee said on its website, citing local and national surveys.

“Bringing an Olympics to Asia for the first time in 20 years will be a catalyst for winter sports as a whole in Asia,” Seung Yun Rah said. “It is a huge and robust market, with 650 million people under the age of 25. This is exactly the target market for sports development: a young and increasingly affluent population.”

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