How Pyeongchang Won the Hearts of the IOC

The passion of the Korean people, the unyielding power to prevail and the firm support of the government made it possible for Pyeongchang to move the hearts of many hard-to-please IOC members this week in South Africa as Korea won the bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics.

◆ Presidential Support

President Lee Myung-bak made a lasting impression by leading Pyeongchang's campaign in Durban, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy were noticeably absent. Lee’s presence had a similar effect as that of former Russian President Vladimir Putin, who led Sochi to victory as it bid for the 2014 Winter Olympics at the 119th IOC General Assembly.

Lee was one of the speakers at the final presentation on Wednesday, when his emotional appeal to the IOC clearly had an impact. "Pyeongchang 2018 is a national priority of the Korean government and has been for the last 10 years. I guarantee you [our] full and unconditional support," he said.

Since his inauguration as president, Lee has worked feverishly to drum up support for Pyeongchang on every occasion. All of his state visits abroad since the end of 2009 have included unofficial meetings that saw him take time away from his official duties to promote the city and meet with influential figures of any visiting country.

In Seoul, he wrote personal letters and made phone calls to IOC members whenever he had time. On some occasions, he mailed the letters himself; on others, they were delivered on his behalf by Korean ambassadors or special envoys. At one point, Lee made 10 attempts to call one single IOC member.

◆ Strategies

Unlike in the past, when Pyeongchang focused on making a more emotional plea, this time it wound together a string of selling points including its strengths and inspiration. Young and energetic Kim Yu-na and Moon Dae-sung spoke of the power of dreams, while Kim Jin-Sun, the former governor of Gangwon Province, gave an inspiring speech that emphasized Pyeongchang's hard work, determination and perseverance.

American mogul ski star Toby Dawson, who is a Korean adoptee, gave a presentation that underscored Korea's dream of further globalizing, while bid committee leader Cho Yang-ho assured listeners that Pyeongchang would not only receive the full support of the local government, but would also be well-prepared and fully ready ahead of schedule.

◆ Clear Message

Pyeongchang's slogan for its third campaign was "New Horizons," in line with the IOC spirit of spreading Olympic sports to all corners of the world. The IOC inspection team witnessed seven new venues built in Pyeongchang, totally transforming the barren tracts of land and vague design sketches that were all the inspection team saw eight years ago during the city’s maiden bid.

Meanwhile, the so-called Dream Program, which is dedicated to nurturing young talents in winter sports in countries where they have failed to secure a footing, showed how it has benefited 947 people in 47 countries since 2004.

◆ Prowess in Vancouver Olympics

At the Winter Olympics in Vancouver last year, Korea finished fifth in the overall medal tally by grabbing six gold, six silver, and two bronze medals. One of the key differences in Canada from its results at previous Olympics was that Korea picked up medals outside of its traditional strongholds of short track speed skating.

Kim Yu-na glided to glory in the ladies' figure skating, and Lee Seung-hoon, Mo Tae-bum, and Lee Sang-hwa scooped up gold medals in speed skating. These mesmerizing performances strengthened Korea's image as a future winter sports powerhouse.

englishnews@chosun.com / Jul. 07, 2011 12:52 KST