The heavy snowfall over the eastern areas of Gangwon Province poses a serious hazard to the people’s lives in the region but it can be a blessing to PyeongChang, which is making a bid to host the Winter Olympics for the third time. A 14-member delegation from the International Olympic Committee just arrived to conduct its onsite inspection of PyeongChang and nearby venues until Friday. They came directly from Annecy, France.
Surprising themselves, residents’ enthusiasm for the Games has not dampened but rather grown after PyeongChang lost to Vancouver, Canada in its bid for the 2010 Winter Olympics and again to Sochi, Russia for the 2014 event. Latest surveys revealed over 90 percent support for the Olympic bid at the levels of the PyeongChang-Jeongseon area, Gangwon Province and nationwide.
This definitely is a strong point particularly compared to Munich, where polls produce an approval rate below 70 percent and to nearby Garmisch where public support is about 50 percent, with farmers refusing to provide their land for Olympic projects.
In PyeongChang, on the Daegwallyeong highland, former potato fields have turned into an expansive complex of five-star hotels, a convention center and a press village in addition to state-of-the-art skiing facilities over the past few years. Gangwon Province’s investment of 1.4 trillion won ($1.2 billion) in the Alpensia project will prove its worth if PyeongChang is finally chosen at the 123rd IOC session in Durban, South Africa in July; if not, it will cause serious financial burden to the province.
Winter sports are relatively new to Asia, due to warm weather and disadvantageous economic situations. Winter Olympics were held only twice in Asia in 1972 and 1998, both times in Japan. Income growth sends Asian tourists to snowy countries, including Korea which received 250,000 foreign tourists at its winter resorts last year. If PyeongChang is chosen for the Winter Olympics in 2018 it will certainly help boost the popularity of the sports on snow and ice in the Asian continent, the land of new vitality.