South Korea: Tensions should not hurt Olympic bid
The three cities competing to host the 2018 Winter Olympics took their case to an influential European audience Friday to woo support before next year's IOC vote.
Bid leaders from Annecy, France; Pyeongchang, South Korea; and Munich made 15-minute presentations to the general assembly of European Olympic Committees.
Pyeongchang, bidding for a third straight time after narrow defeats for the 2010 and 2014 Games, insisted this week's deadly skirmish on the Korean peninsula should not hurt South Korea's chances.
''The South Korean government will ensure that the 2018 Winter Games are safe and secure if we have the honor of being selected as host city,'' Cho Yang-ho, chair of the Pyeongchang 2018 bid committee, said in an interview with The Associated Press.
Tensions have soared since the North's artillery strike Tuesday destroyed large parts of an island in the South, killing two civilians as well as two marines in a major escalation of sporadic skirmishes along the sea border.
''Unfortunately we have lived with the tensions for 60 years, but it has not hurt our ability to stage big sports events,'' Cho said, referring to the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul and the 2002 World Cup jointly hosted by South Korea and Japan.
Munich and Annecy pushed their countries' strong history and infrastructure in winter sports, while Pyeongchang organizers said taking the games to South Korea would open winter sports to a new market in Asia.
The bid cities came to Belgrade after making recent presentations at Olympic meetings in Mexico and China. Europe is the home of the largest number of International Olympic Committee members.
The candidates must submit their detailed bid files to the IOC by Jan. 11. The IOC will select the host city in a vote in Durban, South Africa, on July 6.
The Winter Games have been hosted only twice in Asia, both times in Japan, at Sapporo in 1972 and Nagano in 1998.
Theresa Rah, communications director of the Pyeongchang bid, said holding the games in Asia - ''the home of 60 percent of the world's population'' - would ''create a new market for Olympic sports.''
The Koreans also promised Pyeongchang would ensure access to training facilities before the games for all Olympic teams, provide dedicated housing for extra team officials and support staff and offer free Wi-Fi at all Olympic sites.
Katarina Witt, the two-time Olympic figure skating champion who chairs Munich's 2018 bid, played to the European audience by calling Europe the ''homeland of the Olympic movement.''
''It is critical that we stand together to ensure that the roots of Olympic sport remain strong and healthy here, so that it can continue to inspire the growth of winter sport everywhere,'' she said.
Witt said Munich would provide a magic atmosphere.
''We just don't promise full stadiums, but we guarantee full stadiums,'' she said.
Annecy, led by former moguls skiing gold medalist Edgar Grospiron, highlighted the Savoy region's experience of hosting major winter sports competitions and the lakeside town's reputation as the ''Venice of the Alps.''
Perrine Pelen, a triple Olympic medal winner in Alpine skiing, said France is ''one of the world's prime skiing destinations'' that can guarantee a successful games.
Meanwhile, EOC officials announced that next year's general assembly would be held in Sochi, Russia, host of the 2014 Winter Games.