South Korea's PyeongChang Wins Right to Host 2018 Winter Olympics
The Korean government has pledged over $3 billion to prepare to host the event.
SEOUL -- Wild celebrations took place among South Koreans Wednesday when PyeongChang was named host of the 2018 Winter Olympics.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and members of the bid committee, including figure skating star Kim Yu-na, were seen cheering after the International Olympic Committee made the announcement in Durban, South Africa. Meanwhile hundreds of citizens were seen celebrating at the Alpensia Resort in Gangwon province, the main venue for the Games.
The win over Munich and Annecy marks the culmination of the city’s 10-yearlong effort. In 2001, PyeongChang announced its bid for the 2010 Games, but lost to Canada’s Vancouver, and was passed over again in favor of Russia’s Sochi for the 2014 event.
The local government has invested more than $1.5 billion to build facilities in and around PyeongChang, which is home to popular winter resorts that attract not only locals but also South Asian and Chinese tourists.
South Korea has also promised an additional $1.53 billion to upgrade railways and other infrastructure in the city, which has a population of about 40,000. In order to help the bid, the government even changed the official Romanization of the city’s name.
"We have gone through so much for this moment," said Kim, the first South Korean to win an Olympic gold medal in figure skating, said, tearing up. She has served as the official spokesperson for the bid committee. "Winning the Olympics was a personal priority, but PyeongChang is a national priority,” she said.
When asked whether she plans to compete in 2018 in her backyard to defend her hard-won title in Vancouver in 2010, the 20-year-old refrained from giving a clear answer.
"I am lost for words about now. I can't say anything right now. It will be very good to compete in my own country," Kim said.
The Asian country’s hopes to host the Winter Games date further back. Muju, North Jeolla Province bid to host the 2002 Games. The government initiated the creation of a ski jumping team to help the bid, and the painstaking process is chronicled in the 2009 movie Take-Off starring Ha Jung-woo. The film itself became one of the first sports dramas in the country.
The PyeongChang games will be South Korea's second Olympic event, having hosted the Summer Games in Seoul in 1988. This will be the third time an Asian country will be hosting the Winter Olympics, the first twoin Japan in 1972 Sapporo, and 1998 in Nagano. The country also co-hosted, with Japan, the 2002 soccer World Cup.