A new history of the winter Olympics unfolds. Youth from all nations sprint with all your might. Leap towards the clear winter sky of Pyeongchang, pure and white as spirit of the youth. May your wonderful challenging spirit and song of harmony warm the coldness of your hearts and the world will flare up with “passion connected.”
With the opening ceremony to be held at 8:00 p.m. Friday, the PyeongChang Winter Olympics will kick off 17 days of passion. It is the first Olympic Games to be hosted in Korea in 30 years. Thirty years ago, we had the triumph of successfully hosting the Seoul Olympics, rising from the ashes of the Korean War, achieving amazing economic growth and fighting for democracy in the June Democratic Uprising in 1987. The New York Times drew a comparison between the two Koreas on Wednesday (local time) over the last three decades since the 1988 Seoul Olympics, saying that “The South shed its military dictatorship and opened up to the world. The North remained isolated and authoritarian, and endured a devastating famine that killed an estimated 2 million people. The North remained closed and pursued the development of nuclear weapons, making it an international pariah.”
Which is true. Since the Seoul Olympics, we have ceaselessly worked to make the leap from a developing to a developed country. We have tackled many obstacles on the way, including the Asian financial crisis and the global financial crisis, but now we are facing a turning point that requires a new momentum for future growth. Internally, we still struggle under differing ideologies, generations and regionalism, while the North Korean nuclear crisis still looms. It is lamentable that the participation of the North Korean team and the unified team have resulted in political dispute, rather than celebrating the significance of the Olympics as a sports festival for all.
As we prepare for the opening ceremony Friday, we reminiscence the day in 2011, when Pyeongchang was selected as the host city after two failed bids. Just as the Seoul Olympics became a spring board for Korea, once known only as a small, divided country, the PyeongChang Olympics was expected to raise Korea’s standing as a developed country and become a foundation for national unity. We built the infrastructure from scratch, in a country where winter sports had been nearly unheard of. Just as the Seoul Olympics went down in history as the first Olympics where both the East and the West participated, the PyeongChang Olympics has become the largest scale in the history of Winter Olympics, participated by 2,925 athletes in 92 countries. Korea has become the fifth country in the world to have hosted the four main sports events in the world: Summer and Winter Olympics, the World Cup Games and World Championships in Athletics.
The direct economic value generated by the Olympics is estimated at 29 trillion won. As host country, we may look to more significant effects such as enhanced national brand, general social upgrade, unity and a stronger sense of pride. Whether or not such effects will be achieved depends on the next 17 days. Now we must close the gap between different ideologies, class and generations, unite as one, enjoy and support the games. The epic of white snow, where youth from around the world compete fairly and push towards new heights, has now begun.