|by Michelle Baran||Professional Sports, South Korea||2|
The International Olympic Committee this week selected PyeongChang, South Korea to host the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, a decision that will put the Asian peninsula nation in the spotlight in the coming years — something South Korea desperately wants.
In recent years, South Korea has been pushing to market itself as a viable vacation destination, but it has had challenges, namely that it shares a peninsula with the sometimes hostile North Korea, and competes with China, Japan and Southeast Asia for travelers' attention.
But this announcement could help South Korea drum up the kind of attention and excitement that might help the country emerge from the shadows of its neighbors.
PyeongChang, a mountain region in northeastern South Korea, beat out Munich, Germany and Annecy, France, for the Winter Olympics (PyeongChang got 63 votes, Munich 25, and Annecy got seven).
And VisitKorea, the country's tourism marketing organization, is already touting Pyeongchang as the "Alps of Korea" (interesting considering that Annecy is in the actual Alps), home to several ski resorts and parks.
The decision was in fact a major coup for South Korea, which had already bid for the Winter Games twice, once eight years ago, when it lost to Vancouver, Canada, which hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics, and again four years ago, when it was announced that Sochi, Russia will host the 2014 Winter Games.
But this isn't the first time South Korea will be hosting an Olympics event. Seoul was the host city for the 1988 Summer Olympics, which were hosted in Asia two other times, in Tokyo in 1964, and in Beijing in 2008. Japan is the only country in Asia that has hosted the Winter Olympics — in Sapporo in 1972, and Nagano in 1998.
"PyeongChang presented a strong and inspiring project that enjoys massive support from the government and the public," stated IOC President Jacques Rogge. "I have every confidence that PyeongChang will deliver on its commitment and host excellent Games in 2018."
"The South Korean project will leave a tremendous legacy as PyeongChang will become a new winter sports hub in Asia," added Rogge.
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