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Korea takes center stage in world sports

South Korea is basking in the triumph of PyeongChang’s 2018 bid.

Thousands people in Pyeong-Chang, Gangwon Province, chanted, danced and cried tears of joy when the International Olympic Committee declared Wednesday the Korean city as the host of 2018 Winter Games.

It was the moment that PyeongChang had waited for a decade after its two previous failures. And it was also the moment that Korea had anticipated for a long time.

With PyeongChang’s successful 2018 bid, Korea will now join the list of world’s leading countries that have staged all four mega sports competitions, including Summer and Winter Games, FIFA World Cup and IAAF World Championships in Athletics.

So far only four countries, including Japan, Germany and France and Italy, have staged the four major global sporting events. Russia will join the group when it hosts the world athletics championships in 2013, and the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Korea first entered the international stage by hosting the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul. In 2002, it again drew the whole world’s attention by co-hosting the FIFA World Cup with Japan. And this year, the IAAF World Championships will take place in Daegu, some 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, from Aug. 27-Sep. 4.

And now, with the 2018 Winter Olympics, the country is becoming a true powerhouse in the world sports.

“The Seoul Olympic Games taught the Korean people powerful lessons about the Olympic values. The Games also gave our people hope for a better future,” President Lee Myung-bak said during his presentation to the IOC members in Durban, South Africa.

The successful Seoul Olympics helped change the international image of Korea from a country of war to a country of miraculous growth. And Korea is now looking to revive that legacy by hosting the 2018 Olympics.

In recent years, the country has emerged as a winter sports powerhouse in Asia, notably finishing fifth at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics with six gold medals.

Still, winter sports are relatively new phenomena in Korea, and apart from skating events, Korea lags far behind the world’s top teams in the international winter sports.

But PyeongChang believes that its successful 2018 bid will give a big boost to the country’s winter sports.

The Gangwon Province city has already completed building seven of the 13 required competition venues, including biathlon, cross country skiing and ski jumping slopes with a $1.5 billion investment.

Six additional competition venues, including a new ice hockey stadium, an Alpine skiing venue and also a sliding venue for bobsleigh, skeleton and luge, will be completed in next few years.

“PyeongChang will develop into a year-round sports and tourism destination, and a Winter Games in Korea will act as a catalyst for further growth,” PyeongChang bid committee CEO Cho Yang-ho said in Durban.

By Oh Kyu-wook (596story@heraldcorp.com)
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