Frantic lobbying day before vote for 2018 Olympics
In a frantic final day of campaigning, the three cities vying
for the 2018 Winter Olympics lobbied for votes Tuesday in what
shapes up as a choice between the third-time Asian bid from South
Korea and the European challenger from Germany.
The International Olympic Committee will vote by secret ballot
Wednesday, choosing from among the Korean resort of Pyeongchang,
the Bavarian capital of Munich and the French lakeside town of
Pyeongchang, bidding for a third successive time after close
defeats for the 2010 and 2014 Games, remains the city to beat.
Munich, hoping to become first city to host both a Summer and
Winter Olympics, is pushing hard. Annecy is the outsider.
”I think it’s very close,” Australian IOC member John Coates
told The Associated Press. ”There are strong arguments for each of
the cities. Two of them have stronger arguments than the
For the IOC, the decision comes down to this: Is it time to
reward Pyeongchang’s persistence and send the Winter Olympics to a
new territory in Asia? Or is it time to reconnect with the Winter
Games’ European roots and go back to Germany for the first time in
The IOC’s trend in recent votes has been to move the games to
new frontiers, taking the Winter Games to Russia (Sochi) for the
first time in 2014 and giving South America its first Olympics with
the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.
The Winter Games have been staged twice in Asia, both times in
Japan – Sapporo in 1972 and Nagano in 1998. Pyeongchang, whose
slogan is ”New Frontiers,” says it can spread the Olympics to a
lucrative new market in Asia and become a hub for winter sports in
”After the last two Olympic bids we learned and listened to the
IOC family and the members,” Pyeongchang bid leader Cho Yang-ho
said. ”The difference with this bid is seven out of the 13 venues
are complete, which means we are not just showing people the
drawing board. We are showing them physical venues.”
The persistence of the South Koreans in bidding three times over
a 10-year period could be crucial.
”History’s shown you do get rewarded,” Coates said, noting
that Australia bid three times before Sydney got the 2000 Olympics
and London landed the 2012 Games after several failed British
Munich counters that the games need to go back to their
spiritual home in Europe and to a country with a history and
tradition of winter sports and big crowds.
It’s been nearly 80 years since Germany hosted the Winter Games
in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 1936. Garmisch would stage snow events
in 2018, while Munich would use many of the facilities from the
1972 Summer Games for the ice competitions.
Munich officials believe they have picked up significant
momentum in recent weeks.
”People have realized that this is about the quality of bids,
not about the number of bids,” said Thomas Bach, an IOC vice
president and a senior leader of the Munich bid. ”It’s about the
timing – what do the games need in 2018? People have realized there
is a certain cycle and that this cycle speaks for Munich.”
The Annecy bid, which got off to a slow start and struggled
through budget problems and leadership changes, seeks to
distinguish itself from its two rivals by promising a simpler
”authentic” games in the heart of the French Alps.
”There is no big favorite or underdog,” bid leader Charles
Beigbeder said. ”It’s a three-horse race. We are doing everything
we can to win.”
On the last day before the vote, the three candidates pulled out
all the stops to promote their bids in this Indian Ocean port
Olympic figure skating champion Kim Yu-na borrowed a pair of
skates and took a few turns on the ice with local youngsters at a
community rink to spread Pyeongchang’s message; German President
Christian Wulff and World Cup soccer great Franz Beckenbauer
arrived to bolster Munich’s bid; French Prime Minister Francois
Fillon turned up to pitch Annecy’s case.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak has been in South Africa
since last weekend. All three political figures planned to meet
with individual IOC members as well as take part in the final
Bid officials cornered IOC members in hotel corridors, bars and
lobbies to hunt for votes.
”I feel like an athlete in the changing room,” Bach said,
summing up the mood among the three cities. ”We are waiting for
the door to open and the competition to start. We all feel just
like before an Olympic final. The training has gone well, and now
you want to go out and win.”
IOC votes for the Winter Games can be especially unpredictable,
with many members hailing from countries with little or no winter
sports tradition. Outside factors come more into play.
”There are only 85 counties that send athletes to the Winter
Games, so some of the IOC members can be purely altruistic in
this,” Coates said. ”Rather than focusing on athletes that they
don’t have, they may focus on what they might want to do.”
On Wednesday, each city will have 45 minutes for its
presentation, followed by 15 minutes for questions and answers.
Munich will go first, followed by Annecy and Pyeongchang.
The IOC will then proceed to a secret ballot, with a majority of
votes required for victory. Ninety-six members will be eligible to
vote in the first round, with 49 votes needed to win. If no
majority is reached, the city with the fewest votes is eliminated,
and a second and final round would be held.
There has been speculation of a possible first-round win for
Pyeongchang, which led in each of the first rounds in the votes for
the 2010 and 2014 games but then lost in the final rounds to
Vancouver and Sochi.
The wild-card factor could be how many sympathy votes Annecy
receives in the first round.
AP Sports Writer Gerald Imray contributed to this report.
Stephen Wilson can be reached at