The International Olympic Committee's selection of Pyeongchang,
South Korea means the 2018 Winter Olympics will be held in Asia for
the first time since the 1998 Games took place in Nagano, Japan.
When the word "Pyeongchang" flashed on the enormous television
screen that filled a wall in the central square, the crowd burst
into a cocphony of singing, cheering, dancing, and hugging.
For this town in the middle of South Korea's snow country, the
choice of Pyeongcheong as the central venue for the 2018 Winter
Olympics represents not only a triumph for Korea but for the
individuals who live here in the shadows of the peaks and valleys
where Olympic athletes will be competing nearly seven years from
It was like midnight on New Year's Eve here, locals say, only
louder and more intense.
"I am so excited, we will make Pyeongchang a number one city,"
says Shim Seong-ho, a local government worker, breathless and hoarse
after leading the throng in six hours of sloganeering, deafening
music, and song-and-dance numbers.
A town celebrates
The crowd was a cross-section of the town - office workers and
day laborers, students and retirees, families with kids - and the
sense of camaraderie was universal.
The local government made the occasion one huge blast with snacks
simmering on frying pans and more than enough sweet bean cake for
everyone. As the evening wore on, confidence grew that Korea, barely
defeated in bids for the last two Winter Olympics, would make it
A nation obsesses
The drive to bring the 2018 Winter Olympics to Pyeongchang became
a national obsession, a point of pride for a country and a society
that came of age hosting the 1988 Seoul Olympics and proved it again
by co-hosting the 2002 World Cup soccer finals. What better way to
prove Korea was up there with the world's most powerful countries
than to win the bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics against two of
Europe's strongest winter sports nations, Germany and France?
This time, against a background of defeat in its two previous
runs at the Winter Olympics, South Korea left nothing to chance,
beginning with vast improvements of venues for winter sports to
lobbying and politicking by the country's most influential political
and business leaders.
South Korea's President Lee Myung-bak arrived in Durban, South
Africa four days before the International Olympic Committee's vote.
Samsung chief Lee Kun-hee, Korea's wealthiest man and a member of
the IOC, was visible at his side as the feeling grew that Korea
would indeed become the only Asian country beside Japan to host the
In the end, this time, Korea won by such a wide margin as to bear
comparisons to the student cramming night and day for a difficult
exam - and then acing it. …