- Associated Press - Wednesday, July 6, 2011

DURBAN, South Africa (AP) — The International Olympic Committee selected Pyeongchang, South Korea, as host city for the 2018 Winter Olympics in the first round of voting Wednesday.

International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge announced the selection after just one round of the secret ballot among 95 members.

The other candidates were Munich and Annecy, France.

It’s the first time an Olympic bid race with more than two finalists was decided in the first round since 1995, when Salt Lake City defeated three others to win the 2002 Winter Games.

A majority was required for victory. Had no majority been reached in the opening round, the city with the fewest votes would have been eliminated and the two remaining cities gone to a second and final ballot.

There had been speculation of a possible first-round win for Pyeongchang, which led in each of the first rounds in the votes for the 2010 and 2014 Winter Games but then lost in the final rounds to Vancouver and Sochi, Russia.

Pyeongchang sought to bring the Winter Games to a new territory in Asia.

The Winter Games have been staged twice in Asia, both times in Japan — Sapporo in 1972 and Nagano in 1998. Pyeongchang, whose slogan is “New Horizons,” said it can spread the Olympics to a lucrative new market in Asia and become a hub for winter sports in the region.

Munich, which hosted the 1972 Summer Olympics and was trying to become the first city to stage both Summer and Winter Games, contended it was time to bring the event back to its roots in Europe. Germany hasn’t hosted the Winter Games since Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 1936.

Annecy, the clear outsider in the race, was bidding to take the Winter Games to France for a fourth time after Chamonix in 1924, Grenoble in 1968 and Albertville in 1992.

Wednesday’s vote came after all three cities made final presentations to the IOC members, backed by presidents, prime ministers and sporting greats.

In a presentation featuring South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Olympic figure-skating champion Kim Yu-na, Pyeongchang asked the IOC to reward the country’s persistence after 10 years of bidding.

“We never gave up and tried again and listened to your advice and improved our plans,” said Kim Jin-sun, the former governor of Gangwon province, where Pyeongchang is located.

“I believe it is my destiny to stand in front of you for the third time,” he said, his voice choking and eyes welling with tears. “Our people have waited for over 10 years for the Winter Olympics. Today I humbly ask for your support for the chance of hosting the Winter Games for the first time in our country.”

Munich sought to counter Pyeongchang’s emotional pull.

Thomas Bach, an IOC vice president and a senior leader of Munich’s bid, noted that Germany was making its fourth Winter or Summer Olympics bid in recent years and that it has been more than 70 years since the country hosted the Winter Games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.

“Today’s decision is not about how many times someone has bid or how long we have been waiting. This decision today is about the merits and only the merits,” he said. “The question is whether now to explore new territories again or time to strengthen our foundations.”

The issue of security was not raised in the presentation or in the question-and-answer session with Munich, where 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were killed in an attack by Palestinian gunmen at the 1972 Olympics.

Annecy took a simpler, more human approach in its campaign for an “authentic,” ecologically friendly games in the heart of the French Alps.

“The host city must have a soul,” French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said, a subtle dig at Annecy’s bigger-budget and glitzier rivals.

Each city had 45 minutes to present its case, followed by 15 minutes for questions and answers.

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