- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The South Korean city of Pyeongchang won the 2018 Winter Olympics on Wednesday, beating out Munich and Annecy, France.

International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge announced the body’s decision in Durban, South Africa, to an audience that included South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, German President Christian Wulff and French Prime Minister Francois Fillion  all there to do last-minute lobbying on their countries’ behalf.

Members of the South Korean delegation jumped for joy when Rogge opened the envelope, as the German and French delegations looked on and politely clapped.

“This is a victory for the people of the Republic of Korea,” President Lee said following the announcement. “My fellow Koreans, thank you!”

Pyeonchang’s win also was a political victory for Lee, who has been struggling to boost his sagging approval as he approaches the end of his term.

Pyeongchang, with fewer than 50,000 residents, is located in South Korea’s northeastern Gangwon Province  adjacent to North Korea.

It had made credible bids for the 2010 and 2014 games, winning pluralities at first only to be beaten in later rounds by Vancouver, British Columbia, and Sochi, Russia, respectively.

This time, Pyeongchang won the requisite majority in the first round with 63 votes, compared to 25 for Munich and seven for Annecy.

Though Pyeonghcang was widely seen as the frontrunner, the crushing margin surprised many, including Pyeongchang bid chairman Cho Yang-ho. “I had some confidence, but I did not expect this number, 63,” he said.

Though most members of the German and French delegations congratulated South Korea, German Olympic Committee head Thomas Bach accused Pyeongchang delegation of exploiting its past two losses. “They were playing on this sympathy and compassion minute after minute,” he said.

The South Korean government has spent over $1.5 billion to build winter sports facilities in Pyeongchang.

“I think that maybe there is a lesson in the achievements of Pyeongchang is that patience and perseverance have prevailed and were important,” said Mr.Rogge said, noting that Rio de Janeiro  winner of the 2016 Summer Games also had won on its third attempt.

Korean Olympic Committee President Park Yong-sung said that the victories by South Korea and Brazil had “shown other developing countries that with a good bid and a good campaign they can host games, too.”

South Korea hosted the 1988 Summer Olympics in its capital Seoul, an event that for many symbolized the entry of that long-poor country into the club of first-world economies.

Analysts say Pyeongchang’s victory over Munich and Annecy gives Europe the inside track for the 2020 Summer Olympics, effectively dealing a death blow to Tokyo’s planned candidacy.

Rome and Madrid have launched official bids.