filled in another blank on the Olympic map Wednesday by choosing Pyeongchang, South Korea as host of the 2018 Winter Games.
It was the third straight Olympic host city decision in which the IOC voted to take a Games to a new country or region.
In its third try, having refined its message to concentrate more on sport than geopolitical ramifications, Pyeongchang defeated Munich, Germany and Annecy, France in a vote at Durban, South Africa.
It was a resounding victory for Pyeongchang, a narrow loser for 2010 and 2014, on the secret ballot, which took just one round because Pyeongchang had 63 votes to 25 for Munich and an embarrassing 7 for Annecy. The winner needed a majority.
Two years ago, the IOC gave the 2016 Summer Games to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, making it the first South American host city. In 2007, the IOC chose Sochi for the
, giving them to winter sports power Russia for the first time.
Through 2014, just two of 22 Winter Games will have taken place in Asia, both in Japan.
With the bid slogan of "new horizons,’’ Pyeongchang sold the IOC not only on giving the Games to South Korea but with a plan that is one of the most compact ever for a
, which usually include substantial distance between the alpine skiing sites and the host city.
Venues for all sports are within 30 minutes of each other, and the alpine venues are barely 20 miles from the Sea of Japan, known in South Korea as the East Sea. That could lead to weather issues caused by a maritime climate like those that forced several postponements at the 1998 Winter Games ski venue of Hakuba, Japan, about 30 miles from the sea.
Since Pyeongchang lost four years ago to Sochi, Russia in the vote for 2014, the South Koreans have made good on promises to develop winter sport in the country. They have built seven of the 13 sports venues needed for 2018 – including the ski resort of Alpensia -- and developed an Olympic team that has become successful in more than its longtime strong sport, short track speedskating.
With 14 medals, South Korea was seventh in the overall medal count at the 2010
, beating such traditional winter sports countries as Sweden and France.
No athlete better personified those efforts than 2010 figure skating champion Kim Yuna, who became the face of a bid that previously had relied on foreign Olympic stars like Italian skier
to represent the South Korean effort.
"To do better in the future, we need the new venues that Pyeongchang 2018 will provide," Kim said. "I am an example of the living legacy of the Korean government's desire to improve winter sports."
Kim was a key part of Pyeongchang’s final presentation. With a combination of wide-eyed awe at assuming the role and a calm delivery of her speech in smooth
, the 20-year-old performed as well as she had in winning the gold medal.
"I have trained as hard for today than for most of my competitions," Kim said. "To be put in this position is very humbling for someone my age."
Since the vote for 2014, the South Koreans dropped the heavy-handed emotional appeal that the Winter Olympics could help build a bridge to North Korea. Pyeongchang’s province, Gangwon, is the only one divided between the North and the South.
"In a divided country like Korea, sports means more than just sports," Pyeongchang’s bid chairman had said four years ago. There was no mention of the issue in Wednesday’s presentation.
The most emotional part of Korea’s presentation came from U.S. freestyle skier Toby Dawson, born Kim Bong Suk in Busan, Korea but adopted at age three by a Colorado family.
"Had I remained, I may not have had the resources to become an Olympian,’’ said Dawson, a 2006 moguls bronze medalist. "But I am here to honor my (native) country and its people, my people.
"I want to speak for future generations in Korea. I hope you give them the same chance that I received in America in 1981 - to participate, to excel and to succeed."
The IOC voters hit that idealistic note as well as a monetary one in choosing Pyeongchang. Going to South Korea represents a substantial opportunity for the ski industry. As the country has become one of the world’s economic powers, its people have become more interested in expensive recreational opportunities.
"The Olympics will benefit from returning to Asia and especially Korea which has become a major global business center,'' Andrew Judelson, chief revenue and marketing officer of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, said in a statement.
The time difference in winter between Chicago and Pyeongchang is 15 hours, meaning late morning events in South Korea would be live in prime time in the Midwest.
Pyeongchang, with a population just under 50,000, is just 50 minutes by high-speed train from Seoul, South Korea's capital and the 1988 Summer Olympic host.
"The South Korean project will leave a tremendous legacy as Pyeongchang will become a new winter sports hub in Asia, allowing athletes and young generations to practise winter sports at home," IOC President Jacques Rogge said.
The IOC members clearly rejected the message delivered in Wednesday’s Munich presentation by Thomas Bach, also an IOC vice-president.
"Today is not about how many times someone has bid or how long we (Germany) have been waiting," Bach said. The question is whether we "explore new territories again or go back to our foundations."
Germany last had the Winter Olympics in 1936 at Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which would have been the ski venue for 2018.
In going to Asia rather than returning to winter sports roots in Europe, the IOC members may have also impacted the 2020 Summer Games contest, for which Tokyo is likely to bid again.
While the IOC insists there are not even unwritten rules about geographic rotation -- the 2004 Summer Games (Athens) and 2006 Winter Games (Turin, Italy) -- were in virtually neighboring European countries, it seems less likely that the members would vote for consecutive Games in Asia.