July 07, 2011 09:16
While President Lee Myung-bak's decision to fly to Durban to boost Pyeongchang's bid for the 2018 Winter Olympics is believed to have helped sway IOC voters in Korea's favor on Wednesday night, it was 2010 Olympic figure skating champion Kim Yu-na who emerged as the star of the show in South Africa.
Since she arrived in Durban last Thursday, Kim's every move has been closely followed by over 100 reporters. When her name was called to give the final presentation at the IOC's General Assembly six days later, members of the audience cheered and whistled, while scores of IOC officials rushed to have their photographs taken with the young star.
Kim started working as a promotional ambassador for Pyeongchang's campaign in May, shortly after the 2011 World Figure Skating Championships ended. Pyeongchang's bidding committee wanted to win the hearts of the IOC using her popularity and reputation, which soared after her gold-medal winning performances at the Winter Games in Vancouver last year.
The strategy worked perfectly. In the two briefings before the General Assembly, Kim emphasized Pyeongchang's strengths in fluent English and drew a positive response from IOC members. British IOC member Craig Reedie described her presentation as "fantastic" and said he thought it played a key role in securing Pyeongchang's success.
Kim got off to a good start in Durban by engaging in charity work in a continent where winter sports have a slim presence. She met with 20 young South African skaters and taught them some techniques, and encouraged local figure skater Tamara Jacobs to persevere and never give up -- a motto symbolized by Pyeongchang's winning bid on its third attempt.
"I hope that the 2018 Winter Olympics come to Pyeongchang, because we believe we can help promote the Olympic values and winter sports to a new generation in a region of the world where winter sports remain underdeveloped," Kim wrote in a letter to local South African newspaper "The Daily News."
She also brightened the atmosphere within Pyeongchang's bidding committee alongside three other rising stars: 2010 Olympic gold-medalist speedskaters Mo Tae-bum, Lee Seung-hoon and Lee Sang-hwa.
"There was a sense of desperation within the camp as this was our third attempt to win the bid," said one member of the committee. "So people tended to be more serious and reserved this time round. But the mood lightened considerably when Kim turned up."
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