South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, center, celebrates with the Korean… (Nic Bothma / Reuters )
Reporting from Seoul — South Korea on Wednesday was selected as the host site for the 2018 Winter Olympics, beating out two European challenges from France and Germany.
The announcement -- made by the International Olympic Committee in Durban, South Africa – came after months of intense lobbying by the South Korean contingent, which included a visit to the selection city by South Korea President Lee Myung-bak, who delivered a pitch to the voting panel.
The South Koreans beat out bids by Munich, Germany, and Annecy, France. Earlier in the day, all three cities made 45-minute presentations, followed by 15 minutes of questions before IOC members cast their votes by secret ballots.
The 2018 Olympics will be held in Pyeongchang, a town in South Korea's third-largest county of the same name. The site is in the scenic Taebaek mountain region, which is famous here for winter sports.
The choice of Pyeongchang follows two close South Korean defeats in attempts for the 2010 and 2014 games, to Canada's Vancouver and Russia's Sochi, respectively.
Early reports placed the South Korean bid as a slight favorite over Germany, with France as a distant third choice.
Pyeongchang's choice for 2018 means the Winter Games will be held in Asia for the first time since the 1998 games took place in Nagano, Japan.
In another bit of brinksmanship, both South Korea and Germany sent national skating queens to help sway the vote. Katarina Witt, a two-time Olympic figure skating champion, led the Munich bid committee. Kim Yu-na, the 2010 figure skating gold medalist, served as an honorary ambassador for the South Korean effort.
South Koreans celebrated the selection at a concert at Seoul city hall. "It gave me goose bumps when I heard that we got it," said Jeong shin-don, a white-collar worker in his 40s, who had waited several hours for the announcement. "I'm beyond being excited."
Choi is a news assistant in The Times' Seoul bureau.