Durban, Jul 7 : The Winter Olympics were awarded for the first time to South Korea on Wednesday as the alpine resort of Pyeongchang was named host of the 2018 Games.
Pyeongchang had been a persistent candidate for a decade, finishing second to Vancouver in the voting for the 2010 Games and to Sochi, Russia, for the 2014 Olympics. It built its successful candidacy for 2018 on a proposal to expand access to winter sports in the populous and lucrative Asian market.
The South Korean city won overwhelmingly on the first ballot of a secret vote of delegates of the International Olympic Committee, receiving 63 votes, compared with 25 for Munich and 7 for Annecy, France. Voting took place at a general assembly of the I.O.C. in Durban, South Africa.
“There is maybe a lesson in the achievement of Pyeongchang,” Jacques Rogge, the president of the I.O.C., said at a news conference. “Patience and perseverance have prevailed.”
Pyeongchang will be the third Asian city to host the Winter Games, after Sapporo, Japan, in 1972 and Nagano, Japan, in 1998. Its budget for 2018 was far greater than the other bids — $1.5 billion for the actual Games and $2 billion to $6 billion for infrastructure projects, according to news reports, as Pyeongchang seeks to become a regional winter sports hub.
The South Korean candidacy also enjoyed widespread public support, which the I.O.C. considers an important factor. Its plan to have all events within 30-minute's drive from Pyeongchang apparently was also appealing. And the Olympic delegates seemingly were swayed by the fact that South Korea's president, Lee Myung-bak, traveled to Durban to make a personal pitch for the 2018 Games.
But the most persuasive factor in Pyeongchang's bid may have been the chance to further expand the popularity of winter sports in a country that had not previously hosted the Winter Olympics. Pyeongchang is about 100 miles east of Seoul, the South Korean capital, which has a population of more than 10 million.
Andrew Judelson, the chief revenue and marketing officer for the United States Ski and Snowboard Association, said in a statement, “The Olympics will benefit from returning to Asia and especially Korea, which has become a major global business center.”
In a final pitch to I.O.C. delegates on Wednesday, Pyeongchang's bid leaders displayed a map showing that 19 of the previous 21 Winter Games had been held in Europe and North America, suggesting it was time to give Asia another chance.
Wednesday's vote was in keeping with recent attempts by the Olympics and soccer's World Cup to bring the world's biggest sporting events to places where they had not been previously held. The 2014 Winter Games will go to Russia for the first time and the 2016 Summer Games will be held for the first time in South America, with Rio de Janeiro as host.
The motto of the Pyeongchang bid was “new horizons,” which Cho Yang-ho, the bid committee's chairman, described as an opportunity to “expand winter sports to new regions of the world and give opportunity to new peoples to access to the Winter Games.”
Park Yong-sung, head of the South Korean Olympic Committee, said that Pyeongchang's victory “gave new hope for those developing countries, because in the past we think the Olympics are only for the rich and big countries.”
South Korea has shown its ability to organize major international sporting events over the past two decades. In addition to being the host of the 1988 Summer Olympics, South Korea was the co-host with Japan of the 2002 World Cup.
Yet, corruption involving high-ranking Olympic officials from South Korea has also brought embarrassment to the I.O.C. Kim Un-yong, a former I.O.C. vice president, resigned in 2005 after being convicted of embezzlement. Lee Kun-hee, the chairman of Samsung, an Olympic sponsor, relinquished his duties as an I.O.C. delegate in 2008 and was convicted of tax evasion; he was later pardoned and resumed his role with the I.O.C. last year.
Park, the head of South Korea's Olympic Committee, was convicted of embezzlement but pardoned in 2007. Cho, the chairman of Pyeongchang's bid committee and of Korean Air, was charged with tax evasion in 1999 and given a three-year prison term, but settled with the government for $12 million.
The news of Pyeongchang's victory came near midnight in South Korea. In the resort, villagers danced and waved national and Olympic flags.
“This is a victory for the people of South Korea,” Lee, the country's president, said from Durban.