News / Europe

Sochi Passes Torch to PyeongChang in Transition to Next Winter Olympics

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach (L) passes the Olympic flag to PyeongChang Mayor Lee Sok-ra (2nd R) during the closing ceremony for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Feb. 23, 2014.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach (L) passes the Olympic flag to PyeongChang Mayor Lee Sok-ra (2nd R) during the closing ceremony for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Feb. 23, 2014.
Mike Fussell
The cities of Sochi, Russia and PyeongChang, South Korea are no strangers to each other.
 
Both fought closely to host the 2014 Winter Olympics nearly seven years ago. The Russian resort town took the victory but supporters of the Korean city remained persistent. Eventually, PyeongChang beat out Munich in a bid to hold the 2018 winter games.
 
Georgetown Professor Victor Cha said PyeongChang’s strategic emphasis on how the Olympic bid could help Korean relations may have been a reason why it originally lost to Sochi.
 
“The International Olympic Committee doesn’t like to be put in a position where they are somehow being told whether they do or don’t assign the Olympics to a particular city is going to determine the level of political reconciliation with North Korea,” Cha said.
                                                                                                                           
Despite their competitive past, officials from each city joined together during the closing ceremony to pass the Olympic flag in a symbolic transition to the next winter games.
 
Analysts think many of the concerns discussed leading up to Sochi will also be on the minds of people as the games in PyeongChang draw closer. However, Vice President of the Korea Society Stephen Noerper said certain issues that have been raised in Sochi may be less prevalent during the 2018 Olympics.
 
“Certainly, political liberalization and civil liberties [in Russia], the release of political prisoners, and concerns about infrastructure development, corruption and the cost of the games, which is generally estimated at $50 billion,” Noerper said.
                                                                                                                
Experts note the PyeongChang games are currently budgeted at $2 billion but believe this figure will most likely rise as more money will be set aside to pay for infrastructure projects like the KTX high speed rail system.
 
Cha said the Olympic Games will give South Korea the ability to showcase its latest technological advancements and will be used to establish an image of a modern Korea.
 
“For any nation and city that hosts it, it really is a benchmark of national aspiration and national identity,” Cha said. “These games become a very important way to frame a country’s development or a particular stage in its development.”  
                                                                                                                         
Analysts note the primary issue that will be brought up as the East Asian country prepares for the 2018 Olympics will most likely not be related to its infrastructure. Unlike Sochi, PyeongChang already has many facilities in place that can be used during the games. 
 
Cha said the focus of critics may not even be primarily directed at South Korea but is more likely to call attention to its northern neighbor.
 
“The magnifying glass will move north and it will bring international attention to the human rights violations in North Korea,” said Cha. “Particularly, if some sort of arrangement is reached in which they’ll either field a joint-team or there might be some hosting of games on the northern side. If that were to happen, I think it would put tremendous pressure on the North Koreans.”
            
He also warns that if the political focus is only on one or two primary issues, as he says was the case in Sochi in relation to the threat of terrorism, then other important issues that should be analyzed may be looked at less closely.
 
Despite discussing the possibility of fielding a team together in past games, Korea watchers said PyeongChang organizers have not formally discussed this possibility and are not likely to form a joint squad. Aside from political disagreements between the two countries, both are unable to come to a compromise on how they would form a team.
 
Analysts said North Korea has proposed a quota system for building a unified team, where an equal number of participants would be from the North and the South. On the other hand, South Korea desires to use a skill-based method where athletes would try out for the team and the best would make it regardless of which country they are from.
 
While 71 South Koreans competed in the 2014 Winter Olympics according to the official website, not a single athlete from North Korea competed. South Korea brought home eight medals from Sochi, including three gold medals. 
    
Noerper explained that national identity is important for most athletes when competing in the Olympics, but the situation becomes complex when Koreans try to navigate the politics of the games, even when the decision isn’t between the North and the South - which was the case for speed skater Victor Ahn. 
 
“Victor Ahn left the Korean team and had to choose, or was trying to decide, between the United States and the Russian team,” said Noerper. “He actually pursued Russian citizenship and is now skating for Russia. So, it will be interesting to see how he performs. But the issue of identity has come up in that context.”  Ahn won three gold medals in Sochi.
 
While the Olympics tend to create a spike in national pride, they are also an event where countries from all across the world set aside their differences and come together. Cha noted the International Olympic Committee hopes to plan competitions in areas it has given little attention to in the past.
 
“You can bet your bottom dollar at some point it will be in China because the IOC wants to expand the reach of the Olympics outside traditional areas,” said Cha. “So, you’ll expect to see more Olympics in parts of Asia. Again, the IOC appeared to choose the new over the old by going with places like Sochi and PyeongChang.”  

According to the official PyeongChang 2018 website, the motto for the games in South Korea, which is New Horizons, embodies this idea of global expansion.
 
The IOC said it hopes the PyeongChang games will expose younger generations of athletes in Asia to the power of winter sports and wishes to leave a legacy of new growth and potential that has never been seen before.

You May Like

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs