/ 5 July 2011

Winter Olympics: A tale of three cities

Representatives of the three cities hoping to stage the 2018 Winter Olympic Games were wrapping up their lobbying in Durban on Tuesday ahead of the big announcement of the winning bid.

Germany’s Munich, Pyeongchang of South Korea and French city Annecy were all in bullish mood, although the race is widely expected to be a two-horse one.

Pyeongchang, which narrowly missed out with unsuccessful bids for the 2010 and 2014 events, is thought to be slightly ahead of Munich, with Annecy the rank outsiders.

South Korea’s President Lee Myung-bak is in the east coast city to back the bid and the Asians are now hoping to bring the sport to their country for the first time, while at the same time help take winter sport to a new frontier — the continent has only twice hosted the games before which have both been in Japan.

“At the heart of Pyeongchang’s bid for the 2018 Winter Games is the desire to help the Olympic Movement and winter sport expand to new regions of the world,” chairperson and CEO of their bid, Yang Ho Cho said.

“We call this simple yet powerful vision, ‘New Horizons’. Here at the International Olympic Committee session in Durban, we are seeing the spirit of ‘New Horizons’ come alive.

“We believe this is an important moment for us, for our country, for Asia and for the Olympic Movement.”

France on the other hand has hosted the Winter Olympics on three occasions in the past — Chamonix (1924), Grenoble (1968) and
Albertville (1992) — and despite having a troubled campaign mixed with their ‘written-off’ status, their Sports Minister Chantal Jouanno is confident they can still shock the world.

“Absolutely not,” was her response after being asked if they had already lost. “I always win and I’m looking forward to this battle.

“We’ve been an outsider for a long time, but evaluating now, we are on the same level as the others.”

Her optimism stemmed from what she called “positive” talks with IOC members over the last 24 hours.

“What we heard yesterday was very optimistic,” she said. “This optimism is from members of the IOC I met with. I met five or six of them and there is now really, really more optimism.”

“Until then it was not very clear. But now our bidding is perceived much more clearly and more positively. I’m very proud of our bidding.”

Germany’s solitary staging of the Winter Games came at Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 1936. They too have sent their top political figure in President Christian Wulff.

He said: “I think Munich has presented an excellent bid here. Germany is a country that is full of enthusiasts for winter sports and it’s always the children that already feel a lot about winter sports and like to do it.

“I am here to assure you that we want to have an emotional and enthusiastic games if we win the bid, and I am here to make sure that you know just how enthusiastic Germany is and the whole German population is about hosting it.”

Close to 100 IOC members will cast their vote for either of the cities in a secret ballot on Wednesday with the order of presentations being Annecy, Munich and Pyeongchang starting at 08:45am on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, South African President Jacob Zuma passed on his best wishes to the three bidding cities during a special luncheon for IOC members, that was also attended by his Germany counterpart Wulff and a host of national ministers and their deputies.

He said: “We warmly welcome the 2018 Olympic Winter Games candidate cities of Munich in Germany, Annecy in France and Pyeongchang in South Korea.

“We wish all three cities well during their nail-biting wait.” — Sapa