New horizons, compact game plan and strong public support convince IOC voters
Residents of Gangwon Province cheer with excitement as the IOC announces PyeongChang as the host city of the 2018 Winter Games at the Alpensia Resort in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, Wednesday. (Yonhap News)
He was silent, and did not know what to say. Finally, Kim Man-ki, the communication director of PyeongChang 2018 bid committee, said: “I’ve been waiting for this moment for so long, but I really don’t know how to describe my feelings now.”
PyeongChang’s long battle for the Winter Olympics finally came to an end after the International Olympic Committee voted on Wednesday in favor of the Gangwon Province city as the host of the 2018 Winter Games.
“I just couldn’t believe it myself when the IOC president read out PyeongChang’s name,” Kim said, with his voice still trembling.
For Kim and more than a million people in Gangwon Province, it was the moment they had been dreaming of for nearly a decade.
Despite its two previous failures, PyeongChang’s campaigning has finally born fruit.
“We have been working hard to fulfill our promise to the IOC, and I think it helped sway votes in favor of PyeongChang in the end,” the communication director said.
With its slogan “New Horizons,” PyeongChang has been building its case that it will create a new market for winter sports in Asia by hosting the 2018 Games here.
Given that Asia has hosted the Winter Games only twice, both times in Japan, PyeongChang claimed that the PyeongChang 2018 Games would help spread winter sports in Asia. The bid committee put that message across very strongly in its final presentation in Durban, which was clear and simple, but also powerful enough to convince the IOC voters.
Compact game plan
Observers also acknowledge that PyeongChang’s compact game plan convinced the IOC members. The Gangwon Province city has promised that it will run one of the most “compact Olympics,” in history.
PyeongChang’s 2018 plan is comprised of two clusters: “Alpensia Cluster” in PyeongChang, which will host snow, ski and sliding events and “Coastal Cluster,” in Gangneung, which will host ice events. All the venues will be within a maximum 30-minute drive, and athletes will be able to move to and from their competition venues within five to 10 minutes, according to the bid committee.
PyeongChang has already completed building seven of the 13 required competition venues, including biathlon, cross country skiing and ski jumping slopes. During the past two years, the venues have successfully completed test runs by holding world-level competitions, such as the FIS ski jumping Continental Cup and the snowboard World Cup, receiving full credit from the sports’ governing bodies. The IOC Evaluation Commission also praised PyeongChang’s preparation after conducting its on-site inspection earlier this year.
Strong public support
PyeongChang received the highest public support among the three bidders; 93 percent of the residents of Gangwon Province backed the bid, and 91 percent of the people in the county supported PyeongChang’s 2018 Olympics in a survey.
Also, the Seoul government has strongly backed the bid, pledging a $2 billion investment to upgrade railways and other infrastructure in and around PyeongChang.
In addition, the personnel resources of PyeongChang’s bid committee cannot be overlooked as a major factor for the victory.
On its final pitch in Durban, in particular, PyeongChang’s delegation, led by President Lee Myung-bak, the bid committee CEO Cho Yang-ho and also Korean figure star Kim Yu-na, delivered a strong presentation to the IOC members.
Vancouver Olympic gold medalist Kim’s speech especially, delivered in flawless English, as well as her last-minute lobbying efforts, are believed to have swayed the IOC members to vote for PyeongChang.
In recent years, Korea has emerged as a winter sports powerhouse in Asia, notably finishing fifth at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics with six gold medals.
And now following the successful 2018 bid, PyeongChang is planning to become the hub of winter sports in Asia by successfully hosting the 2018 Winter Games.
But it all depends on how the city does over the next few years, and Kim admitted that the real challenge has yet to begin.
“We have to establish the local Olympic organizing committee as soon as possible, and set up a long-term road map for the 2018 Games,” he said.
PyeongChang needs to build six additional competition venues before 2018, including a new ice hockey stadium, an Alpine skiing venue and also a sliding venue for the bobsleigh, skeleton and luge. It also needs to carry out infrastructure projects to enhance transport efficiency.
But one of the most immediate tasks for PyeongChang is to nurture more winter sports athletes and fans here. The popularity of winter sports in Korea is much lower than in many European countries.
For instance, Germany attracts tens of thousands of people for its annual ski jumping competition, but when PyeongChang held the ski jumping Continental Cup earlier this year, there were just a couple of hundred spectators.
“It will take some time, but things are coming along, and the IOC proved that we’re capable of hosting Winter Olmpics,” Kim said. He said that he might not have enough time to appreciate or celebrate PyeongChang’s victory.
“I believe the next few months will be crucial for the success of PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics,” he added.
By Oh Kyu-wook (firstname.lastname@example.org)