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[Editorial] Winter Games for Korea

Korea’s ardent, decade-long pursuit of the Winter Olympic Games was rewarded when Jacques Rogge uttered one long-awaited word, “PyeongChang.” Its selection as the venue of the 2018 Winter Games in the South African city of Durban on Wednesday sent not just Korean delegates but all Korean citizens glued to the TV back home into ecstasy.

PyeongChang’s win over Munich of Germany and Annecy of France was all the more sweet, both because it came after two failed bids and because the IOC provided the Korean provincial town with an overwhelming endorsement ― PyeongChang swept up 63 of the 95 ballots cast in the first round of the secret vote. Rogge was quoted as saying aptly that “the patience and perseverance of the Koreans has been rewarded.”

The Korean people’s heartfelt thanks should be given to the IOC for its decision. Their appreciation should also be extended to the Korean delegates for the hard work they did for the successful presentation. The delegates, who included government officials, businesspeople and sports figures, deserved to pat themselves on the back.

Now Korea will have to get down to making thorough preparations, as its initial elation subsides, if it wishes to make good on its promise “to give back to the Olympic movement and to the world” ― a promise President Lee Myung-bak made during the final presentation. Scrupulous preparations are needed for another purpose: Korea wishes to develop PyeongChang into a post-Olympic Asian hub of winter sports as well. Its goal can hardly be misplaced, given that it is the first Asian city outside of Japan to play host to the Winter Games.

The work on the Winter Games is set to start at a time when the Korean economy needs a shot in the arm. As the 1988 Summer Olympics and the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea-Japan did, the 2018 Winter Games will certainly provide an enormous boost for the economy, which now shows signs of fatigue after a speedy recovery from the global financial crisis.

According to an estimate by the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade, the hosting of the Winter Games will result in more than 20 trillion won in output and the creation of 230,000 additional jobs. The estimate includes investments in infrastructure projects ― ranging from a high-speed railway and an expressway to lodging facilities for the accommodation of 6,000 athletes and officials as well as the press corps, duty-free shops and other amenities.

During the next seven years, the government, the business community and all other sectors in Korea need to join hands in preparing for the Winter Games. When the work is done as planned and the Winter Games have proceeded without a hitch, Korea will be able to brush up its image around the world again, as it has done through international sporting events in the past.
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