Joy as Pyeongchang nets 2018 Olympics

2011-07-07 11:05

Durban – Pyeongchang finally achieved their dream of hosting the Winter Olympics when they were awarded the 2018 edition at their third attempt here yesterday.

The South Korean candidate did it in style too as they needed just one round of voting by the 95 International Olympic Committee (IOC) members eligible to vote to secure only the third Winter Games for Asia.

They garnered 63 votes to overwhelm their opponents – Munich got 25 and Annecy a derisory 7 – to win by a majority of 48 with all 95 members having cast their vote.

On the announcement from IOC president Jacques Rogge there was an eruption of joy from the South Korean delegation in the room while South Korean president Lee Myung-Bak walked along the stage where the IOC members sat and thanked them.

“I will make a good Olympics,” beamed 69-year-old Lee, who put his thumbs up in celebration.
“This is a victory for the Koreans, thank you to them!”

For Kim Jin-Seun the former Governor of Gangwon Province – who had led the previous two bids and now an ambassador of the 2018 bid – it was a hugely emotional moment.

“For 17 years I have had a really rough road, really hard,” he said.

“I don’t know what to say. I’m overwhelmed. I’m just very very happy.”

Pyeongchang are the first candidate since the now tarnished Salt Lake City in 1995 (for the 2002 Winter Games) to win in the first round for any Olympic bid.

For the South Korean candidate it was joy at last after the bitter disappointment of losing out to Vancouver for 2010 and the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi for the 2014 Games.

In doing so they delivered Asia their first ever Games outside of Japan and first since Nagano in 1998.

It was a personal success too for South Korean president Lee as he achieved his goal he revealed earlier this week of it being “his duty and his mission to deliver the Games to Asia”.

Lee it was who had led from the front at the final presentation earlier on Wednesday when speaking impeccable English – it had been a source of some debate within the camp whether he should speak English or Korean – made a passionate and heartfelt plea to the members.

“We have worked hard and we will make you proud,” said Lee.

“I ask you for your support today so that we can finally make the Winter Olympics and Paralympics dream come true.

“I was a member of the board of FINA (swimming’s governing body) and fellow sportsman so this is why I can appreciate more than anyone what the IOC and Olympic Movement have given Korea.
“Now we want to give back.”

Lee, who stopped in South Africa first on his whistlestop three African country trip, said that their bid was all about the Olympic Spirit.

“It is about friendship, hard work and fairplay.”

Munich in particular had fought hard all the way believing that their professional and smooth campaign could deliver them a Sochi style victory – the Russians had gathered unstoppable momentum to overhaul a stunned Pyeongchang.

However, despite the best efforts of German President Christian Wulff, German figure skating legend Katarina Witt and impressive paralympian Verena Bentele the dream as the president called it was to be left unfulfilled.

“It’s hard for us, really hard,” said six-time Paralympic skier Gerd Schoenfelder.

“I think we had a really really good presentation, a good team and the best conditions for winter sport. So the decision against Munich it’s hard.

“Congratulations to Pyeongchang but?...” he swallowed hard and then added on seeing the result: “It’s a clear decision.”

Annecy were never able to gather anything like enough momentum and while they showed a solid outward resilience their final presentation reflected well the downbeat mood of the camp.

As Witt had remarked earlier in the campaign competing in an Olympics you hope at least for a podium finish but there is no such consolation for finishing second and third in this Olympic race.

Pyeongchang can tell them what both feelings are like.

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