2018 Winter Games bid cities take campaign to Asia
The candidates for the 2018 Winter Games have taken their
campaigns to Asia, where Munich and Annecy face a challenge trying
to convince regional Olympic committee members to vote against a
bid from South Korea’s Pyeongchang.
The three bid teams had limited time to court support on the
sidelines of the Asian Games, given 10 minutes each Saturday to
present their pitches to a meeting of the Olympic Council of Asia
in a downtown hotel ballroom.
Pyeongchang, in particular, sought to use home turf advantage to
regain momentum against the European competition of Munich and
Annecy, France, after an ethics flap that drew a warning from the
IOC. Pyeongchang bidders are hoping for a win after narrow defeats
in voting for the 2010 and 2014 Games.
All three cities touted compact plans that give athletes quick
access to competition venues.
Munich and Annecy leveraged their strong history and
infrastructure in winter sports, while Pyeongchang organizers
raised the promise of tapping a new market in a region where
economics and weather often make activities such as skiing,
snowboarding and bobsledding a mere fantasy.
The head of the Munich bid, two-time figure skating gold
medalist Katarina Witt, said a German event will help re-ignite
interest in winter events by spreading the country’s passion for
”We are not just promising full stadiums. We guarantee full
stadiums,” Witt told the audience.
Olympic champion skier Edgar Grospiron, chief executive of the
Annecy bid, invoked history, too.
He relayed the story of a 100-year-old woman who had attended
the first winter games in 1924 in her hometown Chamonix, a neighbor
of Annecy that would serve as a second hub if the French bid
But his presentation was overshadowed by a video malfunction
when his closing film clip stuttered and lost its audio track.
Pyeongchang bid chairman Cho Yang-ho, also chief executive of
Korean Air, said a South Korean host would help introduce winter
sports in Asian markets that account for 60 percent of the world’s
population. The winter games have only been hosted twice in Asia,
both times in wealthy Japan, at Sapporo in 1972 and Nagano in
Korean Olympic Committee President Park Yong-sung described the
bid committee’s ongoing program to promote winter sports by
bringing children to Pyeongchang. The 7-year-old ”Dream Program”
has already drawn some 800 children – 290 from within Asia.
Pyeongchang’s campaign was recently hurt by sponsorship deals
that raised conflict-of-interest issues. Two South Korean companies
signed deals with international sports federations headed by senior
IOC members. The IOC issued a warning to Pyeongchang and warned the
other bidders to ”fully respect the codes of conduct.”
Park shrugged off the warning, blaming the problematic deals on
”miscommunication,” and expressed confidence about strong support
from Asian IOC members.
”It’s a minor thing. We have some concerns, but we’re going to
be careful about these kinds of things in the future,” he told The
Associated Press after the presentations.
”Asia – we are one family. We are all together,” he said.
Pyeongchang’s appeal to fellow Asian countries translates into a
possible handicap for Munich and Annecy. The likely regional bias
aside, winter sports are also completely alien to some Asian IOC
members that are either too poor or unstable or don’t see any
snowfall. Afghanistan is one of them.
”In Afghanistan, we have war and it’s a bit difficult. We don’t
have winter sports but we are trying to develop them as soon as
possible,” Olympic Committee President M. Zahir Aghabr told the AP
through a translator, adding that he still hasn’t decided which bid
Witt acknowledged that Munich could be a tough sell in Asia, but
Grospiron was less worried.
”It’s an extra challenge, yes,” she said, adding, however,
that she felt warmly received.
”Is Pyeongchang worried when they come to Europe to promote
their bid? It’s the way it works,” Grospiron said.
Eager to impress their Asian hosts, both Witt and Grospiron
learned how to say in Chinese ”hello” (ni hao) and ”thank you”
(xie xie). They also praised the lavish water-themed Asian Games
opening ceremony set against the Pearl River on Friday night.
Despite the huge economic interests at stake with Olympic
hosting rights on the line, there were lighter moments among the
Witt interrupted a group interview to pose for a picture with
Park. Referring to the three cities’ international roadshow for IOC
members, Park said he looked forward to seeing Witt at the next
stop in Belgrade and joked ”Do you know how many times we have to
see each other again? Eight more times.”
A secret vote will be held next July 6 in Durban, South Africa,
to decide the 2018 host city.