By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, May 3 (Yonhap) -- The emblem for the 2018 Winter Olympics in the South Korean alpine town of PyeongChang was unveiled Friday, celebrating winter sports and their athletes with a design inspired by letters of the Korean alphabet and traditional colors.
At a ceremony held simultaneously in Seoul and in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, the Winter Games organizers presented the emblem before some 2,000 officials from the South Korean government, the International Olympic Committee (IOC), local winter sports governing bodies and residents from PyeongChang.
PyeongChang organizers said the design of the emblem was inspired by letters of the Korean alphabet, or hangul, that spell the name of the host city. The central figures of the emblem, 'ㅍ' and 'ㅊ,' were borrowed from the first consonants of each syllable in the city's name.
The organizers explained that the 'ㅍ' shape also represents a gathering square for the three elements in Korea's traditional humanism -- heaven, earth and human.
According to the organizers, the 'ㅊ' character, set against a white backdrop, epitomizes winter sports and the athletes who compete on the ice and snow.
The color scheme follows the five Korean traditional colors, collectively called "Obangsek," of white, black, blue, yellow and red. These colors, the organizers noted, also reflect the colors of the Olympic Rings.
"PyeongChang 2018's new emblem represents a grand gathering of people from all around the world in celebration of Olympic winter sports, which takes place in the harmonious land of PyeongChang," the organizers said in a statement. "(The emblem represents) a square where the earth meets the sky and where athletes excel in snow or on ice. That's where everyone will celebrate the world's biggest winter festival in 2018."
PyeongChang, about 180 kilometers east of Seoul, won the bid to hold the 2018 Winter Games in July 2011, becoming the first South Korean host of the quadrennial winter sports competition. It was PyeongChang's third attempt to stage the Winter Games; it had lost out to Vancouver for the 2010 Olympics and to Sochi for the 2014 Winter Games.
The organizers said they first devised plans for the emblem in May 2012 and they recruited professional designers to come up with 10 candidates, to be reviewed by industry experts and scholars from South Korea and abroad.
The PyeongChang organizing committee's final design choice was submitted to the IOC for final review last December. The IOC gave its approval on Jan. 21, 2013, the organizers said.
The design of the emblem has also been registered for trademark, organizers added.
In her congratulatory remark, South Korean President Park Geun-hye said PyeongChang has taken an important step forward with the unveiling of the emblem.
"We now stand on the road to a successful Olympic Games in PyeongChang," Park said in a message read by Yoo Jin-ryong, the minister of culture, sports and tourism. "We must exert our utmost efforts to present to the world in five years' time the vitality of Korea and the beauty of Gangwon Province."
In a written message, Jacques Rogge, president of the IOC, also offered his congratulations.
"Combining elements of the Korean alphabet and oriental philosophy, this new brand will allow people to immediately connect with Korea and the 2018 Games vision of New Horizons," Rogge said, in a message through the PyeongChang organizing committee. "I wish PyeongChang 2018 a great deal of success in sharing this new emblem with the world."
Kim Jin-sun, head of the PyeongChang organizing committee, said preparations for the Olympics will "certainly gain momentum" following the launch of the emblem. He implored organizing officials and Korean citizens to "take the ownership of delivering one of the most successful Games in Olympic history, with the same passion and spirit that we demonstrated throughout our bid efforts."
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