New horizons for Pyeongchang

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New horizons for Pyeongchang

The Goddess of the Olympiad smiled on Pyeongchang in its third bid for the Winter Games. The small city in Gangwon clinched a landslide victory over Munich by 38 votes, wrapping up the competition in the first round of voting.

The surprising victory Pyeongchang achieved after two consecutive defeats - first against Vancouver in 2003 and second against Sochi in 2007 - was possible thanks to the indomitable will and conviction of the city and others who defied frustration.

With the accomplishment, Korea will join only four other countries to have hosted five world sports events - the Summer and Winter Games, the World Cup, the International Association of Athletics Federations World Championships and Formula One.

One institute expects the economic impact of the Winter Games to reach 64.9 trillion won ($61 billion) considering direct effects such as increased investment and consumption and indirect effects such as promotion of Korea’s image and tourism, including creating 230,000 jobs.

However, we should not be deluded by the rosy picture alone. After pouring $19 billion into the Nagano Winter Games, Japan suffered an extreme recession after the Games, which forced its government to swallow $11 billion in debt.

All related parties for the Pyeongchang Games should pay heed to their roles. Seven of the 13 sports venues are already complete, leaving six to be built, requiring 540 billion won. Traffic and accommodation must also be enhanced. The central government’s experience in preparing for the Olympics will hopefully be beneficial to Pyeongchang.

Problems will emerge after the Games, however. The organizing committee must avert a situation where the government has to pay for losses with the people’s tax money after the Games conclude.

The answer to this conundrum is clear. The government should turn Pyeongchang into a world-renowned winter sports attraction by capitalizing on the existing sports infrastructure and facilities. When the number of foreign tourists increases by 1 million, the economic benefits could amount to 3.2 billion won in 10 years.

If we want our euphoria to continue, the authorities should design the Games with a long-term perspective. Only then can the joy of hosting the Olympics turn into a national blessing as we set upon “New Horizons.” All that hinges on how we prepare for the event with the remaining six and a half years.
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