A boy poses for a photo in front of a snow sculpture for Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics
Pyeongchang showed passion and progress in unveiling its third bid to host the Winter Olympics, an International Olympic Committee panel said Saturday, according to AP.
Gunilla Lindberg, chair of the 14-member IOC evaluation commission visiting South Korea this week, noted strides made in building winter sports facilities in the country's north-eastern mountains and praised the "passionate support" displayed throughout the week by cheering residents and the government.
She dismissed concerns raised about the safety of holding the 2018 Winter Olympics on the Korean peninsula, saying sports can also prove a "force for the good."
South Korea and North Korea have technically been in a state of war since 1953, when their three-year conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. The heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone runs straight through Gangwon, the province where Pyeongchang is located.
The IOC visit comes less than three months after a North Korean artillery attack on an island in disputed western waters killed four South Koreans, and nearly a year after the deadly sinking of a warship that Seoul blames on the North.
South Korea's Minister for Culture, Sports and Tourism, Choung Byoung-gug, said on Saturday the panel asked how inter-Korean dialogue was progressing, but not about security concerns.
"We've had this situation for the past 60 years with North Korea," Lindberg said at a news conference. "During that time, (South) Korea has hosted the Olympic Summer Games, the World University Games, the Asian Games and other events and championships."
It's the third time the once-sleepy town of Pyeongchang — not to be confused with Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea — is campaigning to host the Winter Olympics.
In 2003, Pyeongchang lost its first bid to Vancouver. In 2007, the Winter Olympics went to Sochi, Russia. This time, it's a matter of national pride, Choung said.
Four years ago, the IOC panel stood on an empty field as the Pyeongchang committee described its dream venues. On Saturday, they spoke at a news conference held inside a gleaming convention centre at the $1.5 billion Alpensia ski resort.
Winter sports have boomed in South Korea in the past four years, the product of a growing leisure class in the increasingly prosperous Asian nation. In 1999, there were only 11 ski resorts in South Korea; now there are at least 17, according to the Korea Ski Resort Business Association.
In 2002, South Korea came away from the Salt Lake Winter Games with just four Olympic medals, Lindberg noted. In 2010, the haul of 14 medals, crowned by Kim Yu-na's figure skating gold, was the best among Asian nations.
Pyeongchang organisers, who envision transforming Pyeongchang into a winter sports hub for all of Asia, showed off six venues and said blueprints have been drawn to build seven others if the city wins the IOC vote in Durban, South Africa, in July.