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PyeongChang cautiously optimistic

Korean city aims to bring Winter Olympics to Asia for third time


DURBAN, South Africa (Yonhap News) ― With the vote here on the 2018 Winter Olympics host just two days away, Pyeong-Chang, the South Korean candidate, in its last-minute pitch has been stressing its main point ― that Asia is due for a Winter Games.

The International Olympic Committee is set to select the Olympic host on Wednesday, with PyeongChang vying with Munich, Germany, and Annecy, France. PyeongChang and Munich are largely regarded as front-runners, with Annecy’s bid marred by budget disputes and lack of public support.

PyeongChang, which came up short in two previous bids, is running under the slogan “New Horizons.” It has tried to highlight that the continent of Asia has held only two out of 21 Winter Olympics so far and both were in Japan ― in Sapporo in 1972 and in Nagano in 1998.
Former Olympic bronze medalist Toby Dawson speaks during a press conference in Durban, South Africa, Sunday. (Yonhap News)
Former Olympic bronze medalist Toby Dawson speaks during a press conference in Durban, South Africa, Sunday. (Yonhap News)

PyeongChang bid officials have said a Winter Games in Korea would help promote winter sports across the continent.

“We have such a good message,” said Cho Yang-ho, head of the bidding committee. “Things are going well but you can never tell until the results are in.”

Munich, trying to become the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Olympics, has set its sights on bringing the Games back “to the roots of winter sports” in the heart of Europe.

The German candidate’s slogan is “Festival of Friendship.” If PyeongChang’s bid carries a certain air of desperation or urgency, Munich’s bid is more festive.

Katarina Witt, a former two-time Olympic figure skating champ heading the Munich bid, once said choosing an Olympic host is “about more than just geography.”

“It is a choice about the kind of Olympic experience the athletes of the future should have,” she said during the city’s presentation in May. “In Munich in 2018, every Olympian and Paralympian will have just what they deserve: the single greatest experience of their lives. The atmosphere will be everything they have ever dreamed of.”

The slogan for Annecy, a scenic alpine town, is “Snow, Ice and You.” But in an indication of its fading hopes, French President Nicolas Sarkozy didn’t make the trip to Durban in the lead-up to the vote, only sending Prime Minister Francois Fillon to the occasion.

Korean President Lee Myung-bak and German President Christian Wulff are both here to show their support.

PyeongChang is to hold its final rehearsal of the bid presentation later Monday. Along with Cho and Park Yong-sung, head of the Korean Olympic Committee, PyeongChang has recruited Kim Yu-na, the reigning Olympic figure skating champ, and Toby Dawson, a former Olympic bronze medalist in freestyle moguls and a Korean adoptee, as presenters.

PyeongChang lost to Canada’s Vancouver for the 2010 Olympics and to Sochi of Russia for the 2014 Games.
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