Time is almost up. Just over three months from now, the International Olympic Committee will pick the host for the 2018 Winter Games.
The race heated up Wednesday with all three candidate cities addressing their campaign at the annual gathering of sports journalists in Seoul.
Bidding committees from PyeongChang, Munich and Annecy had 15 minutes each to pitch their proposals at the congress of International Sport Press Association at the COEX convention center. It was the first time the three bidders faced each other after the IOC’s on-site inspection in February.
Speaking to more than 200 reporters, PyeongChang’s bid CEO Cho Yang-ho highlighted PyeongChang’s slogan -- “New Horizons” -- noting that the Gangwon Province city is creating a new market for winter sports in Asia.
He said that of the 21 Winter Games held so far, Asia has hosted only two, and none in Korea.
PyeongChang 2018 bid chairman Cho Yang-ho delivers a presentation at the 74th AIPS congress, COEX, Seoul, Wednesday. (Yonhap News)
“PyeongChang’s Games plan will help promote the Olympic movement to the new regions of the world,” he said.
PyeongChang also promised to offer the most compact and efficient venue plan in history.
“PyeongChang 2018’s venue plan is one of the most compact and efficient in Winter Games history -- it was designed to focus first on the athlete’s needs,” said Kang Kwang-bae, the four-time Olympian, who is now the sports director of the bid committee.
“It is easy for an Olympic bid to say that they are athlete-focused. But here is our key difference. We have done our homework. Through almost 10 years of bidding, we have worked hard to make sure that PyeongChang 2018’s plan is the most athlete-focused,” Kang added.
Meanwhile, the Munich bid committee highlighted its “Festival of Friendship,” theme during the presentation. Jochen Faerber, a spokesman for Munich’s bid, said: “Munich can offer rare alpine atmosphere that athletes just love.”
“Munich is a world class destination and the heart of winter sports,” he added.
The French bid team emphasized that it would offer a small-town atmosphere at one of the world’s most famous winter resort, the French Alps.
“Our bid is with athletes and for athletes. And most importantly our location, in the heart of the Alps, which is ideally suited to welcome the Games,” said Anncey’s bid CEO Charles Beigbeder.
Anncey has been viewed as lagging behind the other two cities. But Beigbeder insisted that he firmly believes Anncey still has a chance.
“Until the last minute, everything is possible. In previous competitions, we have seen cities that were not favorites that, at the end, won the bids.”
Meanwhile, the AIPS President Gianni Merlo said PyeongChang is in “good position” in the bidding race.
“In the two previous PyeongChang was very close to winning, but only lost out in the final voting. But I think Pyeongchang has a great chance this time,” he told The Korea Herald.
Merlo, who has been a correspondent in 19 Olympic Games, said: “In the past years winter sports in this country have grown rapidly. And I think If Korea wins the bid, they will have more chance to grow.”
“IOC has to choose different things. If they choose Europe you choose something that is more related to the past, but if they chose PyeongChang it’ll give new opportunity to a new area,” he added.
The three bidders will now head directly to New Caledonia for the Oceania Olympic congress, which is slated for March 23-27. They will face each other again next month in London for the Sport Accord meeting and an IOC presentation summit in Lausanne in May.
The IOC will decide the 2018 host city at a meeting in Durban, South Africa on July 6.
By Oh Kyu-wook (firstname.lastname@example.org