Three’s a Charm for Pyeongchang

The Winter Olympics are coming to the ROK. After three tries, Korea sent in Kim Yuna and the prez, Lee Myung-bak to clinch the blowout vote which saw the city of Pyeongchang receive 63 of the 95 votes cast by secret ballot. Estimates are that as much as $20 billion will flow into local and national economy.

BUSAN, South Korea -- Pyeongchang, the small winter resort town about 180 km east of Seoul, finally succeeded in their third attempt to host the games, as they won the right to host the 2018 Winter Games at the 123rd Session of the International Olympic Committee General Assembly in Durban, South Africa.

Luck came in three for Korea, which last hosted the Summer Olympics in 1988, after narrowly coming up short in its previous two bids to host: first to Vancouver, and also the 2014 Games which were given to Sochi, Russia.

Pyeongchang needed 48 votes for a victory, but won an overwhelming 63 of the 95 cast in the first round of the secret ballot. Munich received 25 and Annecy, France received seven. By all definition, a blowout for Korea.

“Koreans have been waiting for 10 years to host the Winter Games,” bid leader Cho Yang-ho said. “Now we have finally achieved our dream.”

Kim Yuna, will be just shy of 28 when she can test the home-ice advantage

 Pyeonchang becomes the second Asian country to host the Games, and the first since the 1998 Nagano Games in Japan.

Led by President Lee Myung-bak, the bid committee was finally successful to bring the games to Korea.

"Pyeongchang 2018 is a national priority of the Korean government and has been for the last 10 years. I guarantee you [our] full and unconditional support," he said.

The successful presentation used the theme “New Horizons” and also highlighted the “Dream Program,” which is dedicated to nurturing young talents in winter sports in countries where it is not popular, and showed how it has benefited 947 people in 47 countries since 2004.

The Money Doth Flow

One Korean daily ran this headline: “Money is falling, not snow, over Pyeongchang."

Financial analysts estimate the Olympics could pump as much as $20 billion into the South Korean economy. The effect is already being felt. Kangwon Land Inc., a South Korean casino and hotels operator, saw its stock price rise 9.5 percent before trading and then 3.1 percent higher at 30,000 by mid-morning.

The  Hyundai Economic Research Institute projectsthat nearly 23,000 jobs will be created and approximately 390,000 winter sports fans will visit Pyeongchang during the event.

This will not come cheap of course: “Some 3.3 trillion won in social overhead (infrastructure) costs will be needed every year until 2017 for the games. That’s an extra burden on government finances. Also, infrastructure projects will add fuel to inflationary pressures,” says Kim Nam-hyun, a Eugene Investment & Futures analyst

The Korean media reacted with characteristic talk of “image building” for the country, much as was the case when South Korea was awarded the G20 last year.

Lee Dong-hun, a senior fellow of the Samsung Economic Research Institute in Seoul, sees the Winter Games as something that will help ‘polish’ the national image in the international community.

“In Europeans’ minds, Korea could be simply perceived as a country with a strong high-tech and information technology industry,” he said. “Coupled with the K-pop popularity in some countries there, Korea’s media exposure as a nation hosting the global winter sports event will help give Europeans a positive perception.”

Lee Myung Bak went all out to assure the vote went in Korea’s favor in what the Korea Times described as a “win (that(raises Lee’s global profile.”

“During a 17-hour flight from Seoul, Lee practiced the English speech so hard that he felt his throat ache. However, he attended two dress rehearsals for the presentation along with other speakers and did his job perfectly in the end,” presidential spokesman Park Jeong-ha told the Times.

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