Largely unadvertised to the American public, Pyeongchang, South Korea has been selected as the site of the 2018 Winter Olympics.
The games will help put Pyeonchang on the map economically and will be a boon for global investment in the small town. But the games could also have a wider political benefit. With the eyes of the world on Korea, new steps could be taken towards unification between the north and south, which have been at war for decades.
But gaining the Olympics hasn't been easy. Spokespeople for Pyeongchang included Olympic figure skating champion Kim Yu-na and Park Yong-Sung, President of the Korean Olympic Committee. Other candidate cities (finalists) included Munich, Germany and Annecy, France.
When the International Olympic Committee announced that Pyeongchang would be the site of the 2018 winter Olympics, Pyeongchang farmers who had saved for months in order to afford a plane ticket to come to the selection assembly in South America and cheer for their home town wept with joy when they heard that their city had been selected. Why? After two failures (Pyeongchang applied to the IOC in both 2003 and 2007), Pyeongchang will finally receive international recognition.
Following the precedent of the Seoul Olympics in 1988, the South Korean government will provide massive funding for the development of Pyeongchang in order to prepare it for the games, boosting infrastructure and the local economy.
But this selection affects many more than just the residents of Pyeongchang; it affects South Korea as a whole. It is a diplomatic victory for the Korean people. Park, who delivered his speech directly before the IOC, asked, “Who said our sports diplomatic power was weak?”
Park observed that sports diplomacy may not only be an indicator of overall political diplomacy, but also noted that the two can become intertwined. He said that the Olympic games have grown to the point where heads of state even get involved in bringing the Olympics to their countries.
As the 2018 Olympics bring South Korea further international eminence, it will also likely spark a resurgence of the citizens’ (already strong) patriotism and pride in Korean culture. Professor Lee Won-bok, author of Far Countries and Close Countries believes that, “the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang can be a cataclysm that can mobilize national consensus and reconciliation, and bring an end to the ideological clashes that have been seriously undermining Korean society.”
In other words, hosting the 2018 Olympics could inspire Korean nationals to resolve internal conflicts and become a more united nation in order to present themselves to the world again in 2018. Although this theory is rather optimistic and not without its critics, Korea is definitely on the road to impressing the world in 2018.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons