A virtually unknown region 31 miles south of the Demilitarized Zone that separates North and South Korea is preparing to take its turn at the Olympic merry-go-round.
The 2018 Winter Games are scheduled to kick off Feb. 9 in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in the backdrop of drug-cheating scandals, a lack of interest at home and the existential threat of a bellicose neighbor to the north.
Organizers have addressed these subjects gingerly, but also have worked tirelessly in the background to ensure the first of three consecutive Olympics in Asia is a success.
They’ve been on the ground in Sochi and Rio de Janeiro, the previous two Games that left behind decaying facilities that cost millions to build — the kind of bad optics that has led to skepticism about playing host to the Olympics.
They promise it won’t happen in Gangwon Province long after the tent stakes are pulled.
“The venues have been designed as much around what happens after the Games as during” them, Pyeongchang Olympic Organizing Committee president Lee Hee-beom told this news organization.
South Koreans might have a strong legacy plan, but alas, Sochi and Rio organizers made similar promises ahead of their Olympics in 2014 and ‘16, respectively. Still, Lee, a former minister of trade, industry and energy, is determined to transform this mountainous area east of Seoul into an Asian winter sports hub. Korean organizers say their budget is $12.6 billion, a modest sum compared to Sochi’s spending spree of $51 billion.
The Koreans will have 17 days in February to spread the magic dust in Asia, with the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo and 2022 Winter Games in Beijing next on the docket.
But before they can get to the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium there is lots to consider. Like, how to pronounce the name of the host city of the XXIII Winter Games.
According to one Korean YouTube video, it’s “PEE-ong-tan.” Another goes with “Pyung- CHUNG” whereas NBC plans to pronounce it “Pyeong-chang.”
Just as long as they don’t get it confused with the North Korean capital of Pyongyang (pyeon-yung) everything should be OK.
But organizers have plenty of other obstacles to keep them occupied anyway. Like…