South Korea Olympic bid aims to tap lucrative Asia market

2011-01-25 10:19

Seoul – Northeast Asia’s booming economy and its largely untapped youth market are the cornerstone of South Korea’s 2018 bid to host the first Winter Olympics in the region for 20 years, its bid chief said.

Pyeongchang hopes it will be a case of third time lucky when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) meets in South Africa in July to choose between Germany’s Munich, France’s Annecy and the South Korean resort.

The South Koreans just missed out in their last bids to Vancouver (2010) and Sochi (2014) by three and four votes, respectively.

Bid chairperson Cho Yang-ho, who is also chairperson and chief executive of Korean Air, says his team do not feel they are owed their turn after the past failed bids, or because North America and Europe have shared the past four Games.

The South Korean “New Horizons” bid is the right choice because it offers the Olympic movement an opportunity to tap into a lucrative market with unbridled potential, at a time when Europe and the United States are gripped by economic woes, he said.

“Asia is praised for its new growth and new potential,” he said. “Sixty percent of the world’s population live in Asia, and one billion people live within an hour of Seoul by plane.

“Some 650 million young people live around Asia ... people who do not have experience of winter sports. This opens potential new growth of winter sports in Asia.”

While debt and high unemployment continues to stifle growth in Europe and the United States, the South Korean and Chinese economies have been growing at breakneck speed.

Another step forward

Asia has only hosted two Winter Games – at the Japanese resort of Sapporo (1972) and Nagano (1998) – prompting some critics to call for a rotation system among continents as soccer’s governing body Fifa does.

Cho says he does not want to get into that debate, leaving it to the IOC to decide selection criteria.

Instead, he focuses on how the Olympic movement served to propel South Korea from a military dictatorship to democracy, and augmented the start of a transformation from a developing economy to one of the world’s leading economies.

“After we hosted the 1988 Summer Olympics, the boost to our economy and social development was tremendous. This will be another step forward,” he said.

Cho refused to be drawn on any possible involvement of North Korea if the 2018 bid was successful but stated the venues had all been chosen and were accessible by bus and within 30 minutes of each other.

The threat of conflict has hung of over the peninsula for decades, with the North and South still technically at war having only signed a truce to end the 1950 to 1953 Korean War.

Last year tensions rose to their highest level in years with two deadly attacks on the South, but Cho says that the danger-level is exaggerated.

Anyway, he says, South Korea has proven it can host major international events without disruption.

“For the last 60 years we have had tension between the South and North, but we have still peacefully and successfully hosted an Olympic Games, the World Cup (co-host with Japan in 2002) and most recently the G20 summit,” he said.

“I have full confidence we can host the Winter Games.”

The IOC will inspect the Pyeongchang resort, about 200km east of Seoul next month. It will visit Annecy and Munich.

The winner will be named in Durban on July 6.

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