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

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid