After two unsuccessful bids for the Winter Olympics, Pyeongchang won the right to hold the 2018 Winter Games when 90-plus members of the International Olympic Committee in Durban, South Africa, selected the South Korean city in the first round of voting Wednesday.
Pyeongchang soundly defeated Munich and Annecy, France, sending the Winter Games to Asia for the first time since the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan. The IOC’s 95 eligible members from 76 countries voted by secret ballot. Pyeongchang won 63 votes; Munich, 25; and Annecy claimed just seven.
“We are absolutely delighted,” Cho Yang-ho, the leader of the Korean bid, said during a televised news conference after the announcement. “Over the course of 10 years of bidding, we have been listening and learning from the Olympic family. . . . today our effort and commitment to having the Olympic Games has been rewarded.”
When IOC President Jacques Rogge announced the result after opening a sealed envelope in front of representatives from all three cities and the organization’s entire membership, a roar went up from the Pyeongchang contingent.
Bid team members leaped, waved South Korean flags, chanted briefly and embraced as representatives from the two other bid cities clapped politely. The last time a city had been selected in the first round was in 1995, when Salt Lake City won the right to hold the 2002 Winter Games.
“We understand, of course, [Annecy and Munich] are disappointed,” Rogge said. “But I think there is maybe a lesson . . . patience and perseverance have prevailed.”
After losses to Vancouver in the race for the 2010 Winter Games and Sochi, Russia, for the 2014 Olympics, Pyeongchang offered an uncustomary third straight bid.
The third-largest city in South Korea, Pyeongchang had actually secured the most votes in the first rounds of its two previous bids, but since it did not receive a majority, the cities that received the lowest number of votes had been eliminated, and voting continued.
Rio de Janeiro, which won the right to hold the 2016 Summer Games, bid three times before winning in 2009.
“In the past, we think the Olympics are only for rich and big countries,” said Park Yong-sung, the president of the Korean Olympic Committee. “But now Rio, and us, means even those developing countries with good programs and campaigns, they can have the Games in the future.”
A 2018 Games in South Korea opens the door to a 2020 Summer Games in Europe and perhaps discourages Tokyo, which has announced plans to contend for that Olympics. Rome has already announced its candidacy and Paris and Madrid could join the field.
Scott Blackmun, chief executive of the U.S. Olympic Committee, has repeatedly said the United States would not offer a bid until its longstanding revenue-sharing dispute with the IOC had been worked out. That seems unlikely in time for the September entry deadline.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and 2010 Olympic figure skating gold medal winner Kim Yu-na participated in Pyeongchang’s formal presentation, which pushed the theme of “new horizons.” Each of the bid cities made an hour-long presentation before the vote.
The 1988 Summer Games took place in Seoul, but South Korea has never held a Winter Olympics.
Munich, the site of the 1972 Summer Games, was attempting to become the first city to host a winter and summer Olympics. Annecy, considered the outsider in the race, cast itself as an authentic, non-commercialized winter sports center.
Pyeongchang relied heavily on the corporate support of Samsung, the emphatic backing of the South Korean government and its reputation for persistence.
Munich tried to leverage the insider support of IOC Vice President Thomas Bach of Germany and the general appeal of two-time Olympic champion figure skater Katerina Witt, a key bid team member while declaring the bid about “friendship.” The nation last held a Winter Games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 1936.
Annecy, which struggled at times with bid organization and public support, was attempting to become fourth French city to hold a Winter Olympics. Chamonix held the inaugural Winter Games in 1924; Grenoble played host in 1968; and Albertville, in 1992.