This announcement is a couple days old but still noteworthy. PyeongChang, Korea in Gangwon Province is the first contender to submit its bid to host the 2014 Winter Olympics. It narrowly lost out to Vancouver, British Columbia in its bid to host the 2010 Olympics, and now it is the front runner to host the 2014 Winter Games. In fact, Korea’s entry in the Olympics sweepstakes received the most International Olympic Committee votes during the first round of voting to host the 2010 Winter Olympics host city. However, it lost to Vancouver in subsequent rounds. For the 2014 games, PyeongChang’s biggest rival will be Salzburg, Austria. Salzburg is also a serious contender, but considering that Turin, Italy will host the 2006 Winter Games, I consider PyeongChang to be the front-runner. Salzburg may be better for skiing and downhill events, but I think that PyeongChang is better prepared to handle the myriad other winter sports showcased during the games. South Korea has not hosted the Olympics since 1988, the year when Korea really came into its own as a nation. In 2002, Korea co-hosted the World Cup with Japan and did a phenomenal job. The World Cup happened 14 years after the Seoul Summer Olympics, and now it seems very likely that Korea will again have a chance to showcase itself in 2014. PyeongChang is a county, not a city, and the PyeongChang Olympics sites will be spread throughout the county. Pyongyong Ski Resort, highlighted in the Korean drama, "Winter Sonata," will be a major attraction during the PyeongChang Olympics. The host city for the 2014 Winter Games will not be selected for a couple more years, but with my intuitive crystal ball I surmise that the Winter Olympics are in PyeongChang’s future. If not in 2014, most definitely in 2018.
PyeongChang is a couple hours east of Seoul. We have yet to visit it, but our brief trip to Chuncheon, also in Gangwon Province, gave us a good glimpse into PyeongChang’s potential as an Olympics venue. Gangwon Province is very beautiful. The mountains are neither particularly rugged nor blessed with large, old growth conifer forests, but they are beautiful nonetheless. They define Korea well–crowded, compact, standing tall, yet ever intriguing. As you drive through the Korean countryside, you often drive through tunnels that cut across two or three mountain ridges within a matter of minutes. In fact, the scenery in some places is reminiscent of Alpine foothills and valleys. Korea has neither a Matterhorn nor a Mount Fuji, but its mountains still have a quaint mystique similar to the European countryside. During the summer, the vegetation is lush and green. I do not know what the mountains in Gangwon Province look like during winter, but I imagine that they are gorgeous when snowcapped. We are hoping to visit Gangwon Province again soon, and when we do, we’ll likely visit PyeongChang before it becomes "PyeongChang, Home of the 2014 Winter Olympics."