From Sochi to Pyeongchang

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From Sochi to Pyeongchang

The Sochi Winter Olympics in all of its glitzy splendor and extravagance is coming to a close after fulfilling its biggest purpose: to demonstrate to the world the might of a revived Russia under a charismatic and energetic leader. We congratulate the Russians. For us, the Sochi moment has been as valuable and magical as the games in Vancouver four years ago. In fact, the Olympics raised the bar for young Korean athletes. On the ice, young Korean athletes, despite having smaller builds than their European competitors, outshone with their explosive potential and strong will. Korea’s figure skating queen, Kim Yu-na, proved that she remains dominant in the sport regardless of the controversial score she received with incomparable mastery, elegance and beauty. There is no doubt she will go down in the world history of sports. We are truly proud that she is one of us.

Europeans - mostly the Dutch - became the new rulers in speed skating. Yet they also singled out one South Korean - Lee Sang-hwa - who took home her second straight Olympic gold after finishing first in the women’s 500 meters. Her rivals shook their heads and referred to her as Usain Bolt-on-ice because of her lightning-fast start. Lee overcame pressure and expectations from her home country as well as knee problems. She, too, raised the name of Korea. And what about our teenage speed-skater Shim Suk-hee, who offered home fans the most dramatic and thrilling victory in the 3,000-meter short track relay final? Just when Korean viewers were beginning to give up hope on the Korean team, the 17-year-old skater zipped past China’s Li Janrou to finish first. Her perseverance and strength gave a boost to the Korean women’s team, helping her elder, Park Seung-hi, add gold in the 1,000 meters. The men’s speed-skating team won its first medal - silver - in the team pursuit competition. Koreans also demonstrated potential in traditionally Western sports like curling and skiing.

Four years from now, the world’s eyes will be on our land. The next Winter Games will be held in the northeastern resort of Pyeongchang, our first Olympics since Seoul hosted the Summer Games in 1988. The Seoul Olympics was the first major international competition that brought athletes from the two sides of the cold war. The 1988 Olympics served as a tipping point for the fall of the Soviet Union and Eastern European bloc. The 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics could make more history. It must be fair, athlete-friendly, and non-extravagant. We, as the host, must focus on one fact: the Olympics is about sports and athletes, not country and politics.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 24, Page 34

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