[ROSTRUM]Bring on the Games

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[ROSTRUM]Bring on the Games

Just as the successful World Cup tournament did, the Busan Asian Games and the Busan Disabled Games ended without incident. In the World Cup, the 5 million Korean soccer fans who gathered outdoors to cheer surprised the world. During the Asian Games, North Korean supporters added new meaning to unification. These events filled my heart with deep emotion.

I wish such emotions that are aroused by sporting events would serve as the seed to bring to South Korea one more joy: the 2010 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, Gangwon province.

People might not think much of the province's chances to stage the Winter Games, an effort that has been overshadowed by the ongoing presidential election campaigns. However, the Gangwon provincial office, after years of work, has entered a decisive stage in the competition.

A shift in the activities to land the Olympics was made recently when the central government joined the campaign to stage the Games. Gong No-myung, a former foreign relations minister, now heads a committee to bring the Winter Olympics to the peninsula. A special committee has been organized in the National Assembly and a supporting committee headed by the prime minister was formally launched.

According to the International Olympic Committee, on Feb. 14-17, 2003, after all applications have been submitted, members of a selection committee will examine the areas that want to stage the Games. In July in Prague, the IOC will announce the host city. Vancouver, Canada, and Salzburg, Austria, are the two finalists competing with Gangwon province. Vancouver has geopolitical advantages because it is located on the North American continent, and Salzburg has fine resorts. But Vancouver has more chances of winning, since the 2004 Summer Olympics will be held in Athens, and the 2006 Winter Olympics will be held in Turin, Italy. The IOC likes to rotate the Games to different continents.

The hard work of the 3 million residents of Gangwon province allowed the province to become a final contestant. Pyeongchang staged the Alpine World Cup ski races in 1998 and the Asian Winter Games in 1999, which also helps. Korea might win a bid if Gangwon province shows continued determination by building more facilities, and if Seoul pledges additional support.

The Games raise a country's international status and building facilities contributes to national development. Moreover, staging an Olympics generates pride. The Games will bring 200 billion won ($167 million) in profits and Gangwon province will become a world-class tourist spot.

In order to become a host nation, the government must express its will to support the Games; publicize the significance of staging the Games in an area adjacent to North Korea; and convince others that the people's support and participation determines the success of an Olympics, not where those Games are held.

The writer is the head of Overseas Development Agency.

by Ahn Jung-tae

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