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South Korea goes wild as Pyeongchang wins bid to host 2018 Winter Olympics [VIDEO]

The International Olympic Committee's selection of Pyeongchang, South Korea means the 2018 Winter Olympics will be held in Asia for the first time since the 1998 Games took place in Nagano, Japan.

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In the end, this time, Korea won by such a wide margin as to bear comparisons to the student cramming night and day for a difficult exam – and then acing it.

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Against Korea's 65 votes, mighty Munich, seen before the vote as running neck-and-neck with South Korea, mustered only 25 votes, and Annecy, the French entry, got just 7.

For Pyeongchang, the victory was all the more remarkable considering that Korea has hardly been known for winter sports.

It was not until country's dramatic economic recovery from the Korean War, which ended in an uneasy truce in 1953, that winter sports have become popular. And Korean promoters still have tremendous difficulty convincing people outside Korea to come here simply to go skiing in anything approaching the numbers that flock to slopes of the European Alps.

An emotional night

The supremacy of the figure skater Kim Yu-na, gold medalist in the last Winter Olympics, has probably been as important as anything else in demonstrating Koreans' capacity to compete at winter sports.

Ms. Kim, a star in the campaign for the Pyeongcheong bid, shed tears in Durban as she described her emotions.

"If you lose an individual competition, it's just a personal thing," she said. "This time it was much bigger. I was afraid, even a small mistake on my part could ruin the whole thing. I'm so very happy now."

That was the overwhelming feeling among everyone here in town – and in another crowd of wildly cheering fans at the base of the slopes a few miles away – as they absorbed the news.

"I'm speechless," says Park Min-jong, on the fringes of the crowd, far enough away from the noise to be able to talk for a moment. "Now more foreigners will visit Pyeongchang, and we will treat them as our own family."

Kim Yeon-ho, owner of a construction company, asks foreigners, "Please give us your support," as the town begins to prepare for its place in Olympic history. "We're so happy."

10 years of preparation

In the end, it was the emotional drive, the national desire to prove Korea's standing as a global power, that seemed to have made the difference.

"We've been preparing for this for 10 years," said Cho Yang-ho, talking on Korean TV networks in Durban. "The biggest factor is each and every citizen gave us support, so I didn't feel it was so difficult.... I never felt pessimistic about anything."

Soh Min-kyung, running a restaurant beside the city hall square, talks about how sad it would have been to lose the bid.

"It would be bad for Korea, bad for Koreans," she says. "This is a great thing. All Koreans are extremely happy."


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