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(LEAD) PyeongChang Olympic bid officials make triumphant return home

All Headlines 17:04 July 08, 2011

(ATTN: UPDATES with rival parties' agreement to PyeongChang Olympics in last 3 paras)
By Yoo Jee-ho

INCHEON, July 8 (Yonhap) -- Officials for PyeongChang's successful Winter Olympics bid made a triumphant return home Friday, greeted by hundreds of fans at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, after delivering South Korea's first Winter Games.

PyeongChang, an alpine town some 180 kilometers east of Seoul in Gangwon Province, was voted the host of the 2018 Winter Olympics on Wednesday. In the voting by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Durban, South Africa, PyeongChang garnered 63 of 95 possible votes in an overwhelming win over Munich of Germany and Annecy of France. Munich earned 25 votes and Annecy had seven.

This was PyeongChang's third straight bid for the Winter Games. It lost to Vancouver of Canada and Russia's Sochi in earlier bids. PyeongChang has been hailed for its resilience and persistence with this week's win.

Cho Yang-ho, the head of PyeongChang's bidding committee, said it was all a team effort.

"I'd like to thank President Lee Myung-bak for coming to Durban early, meeting IOC members and giving a speech in the presentation," Cho said at a press conference. "But this wasn't just about a few people. The government, the Korean Olympic Committee and the people all came together. This is a great victory for Korea."

Cho, also chairman of local conglomerate Hanjin Group, said a day before the vote that IOC members gave PyeongChang officials "some positive signs." He said he was confident of a victory -- just not of a landslide win.

"And when we heard it was over after one round, we were sure of a win," Cho said.

Of 110 IOC members, 95 took part in the election, and an outright majority was required for a first-round win.

President Lee, who gave an English-language speech in the final presentation, provided PyeongChang with a last-minute push and guaranteed that an Olympics in PyeongChang would have the full support of the government. Kim Yu-na, the reigning Olympic women's figure skating champion, was also among the presenters and acted as the face of PyeongChang in the buildup to the IOC vote.

Toby Dawson, a Korean-born American freestyle skier who was adopted by a Colorado family, joined the bidding team in Durban and also served as a presenter. He said he will cherish the memory of the successful bid.

"It was such a thrilling opportunity to be a part of this Olympic bid," Dawson said. "I am so proud to be Korean and so proud to have been a part of that."

The victory was also a poignant one for Kim Jin-sun, a special ambassador for PyeongChang. It was Kim who first launched the bidding campaign as a former three-time Gangwon governor.

"PyeongChang had a small dream for over 10 years, and in Durban, the dream was finally realized," Kim said. "It's an honor to be part of the dream today."

PyeongChang's bid slogan of "New Horizons" centered on the idea that a Winter Games here would promote and develop winter sports in Asia, a relatively new market. The continent has had only two previous Winter Olympics, both in Japan.

PyeongChang also stressed its plan to host a compact, efficient Olympics in which all venues will be accessible within 30 minutes of each other.

Prior to the election, the South Korean town had the highest rate of public support among the candidates, according to an IOC poll.

The bidding committee will be restructured into an Olympic organizing committee within five months. The bidding team had consisted of officials from the Gangwon provincial government and Korean Air, an affiliate of Hanjin Group.

Choung Byoung-gug, South Korea's minister of culture, sports and tourism, acknowledged that PyeongChang still has work to do.

"We will nurture young athletes for the 2018 Winter Olympics and if necessary, send them overseas for special training," Choung said. "We will establish infrastructure to ensure a better training environment for athletes in sledding events and in skiing (where South Korea has struggled)."

The Winter Olympics are expected to provide a boost to the local economy and tourism and to turn PyeongChang and neighboring cities into an Asian center for winter sports. Choi Moon-soon, governor of Gangwon, said the province will join forces with the central government to improve infrastructure before the games.

"We've made promises to the IOC, and we will live up to our commitments," Choi said.

Lawmakers have pledged bipartisan support to help PyeongChang successfully host the 2018 games. Earlier in the day, floor leaders from the ruling Grand National Party (GNP) and the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) agreed to enact a special law for the city.

Rep. Hwang Woo-yea of the GNP and Rep. Kim Jin-pyo of the DP also decided to set up an extra parliamentary committee for PyeongChang. Details of the proposed law were not disclosed, but party officials said it would help PyeongChang speed up construction of infrastructure and facilities for the Winter Olympics.

The National Assembly is expected to vote on the approval of the proposed special law in its August session, party officials said.


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