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Sunday, July 10, 2011

SPORTS SCOPE

Kim's contribution crucial to Pyeongchang's victory


In a performance almost as dominating as the one that earned her the Olympic gold medal 16 months ago, South Korea's Kim Yu Na put on a show for the ages this week at the International Olympic Committee's meeting in South Africa.

Jack Gallagher

The 20-year-old skate queen was the point person for the successful Pyeongchang bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. The South Korean city beat out Munich and Annecy, France, for the right to stage the spectacle after losing in two previous attempts.

The Korean Olympic Committee's decision to make Kim the face of its bid was pure genius. Young, hip and beautiful, she represents the future generation of the emerging economic power.

Kim magnetism was on full display in the days leading up to the vote as she promoted the bid's "New Horizons" theme.

"Since she arrived in Durban last Thursday, Kim's every move has been closely followed by over 100 reporters," South Korea's Chosun Ilbo reported. "When her name was called to give the final presentation at the IOC's General Assembly six days later, members of the audience cheered and whistled, while scores of IOC officials rushed to have their photographs taken with the young star."

The dynamic and stylish Kim was a powerful and gravitational force, who carried out her assigned task with precision.

We have all heard of the person that "lights up a room when they walk into it." That is Kim Yu Na — intelligent, charming and fearless.

When I think of a role model for my 8-year-old daughter, I think of Kim. Somebody who has great values, but is tough and determined.

Her final presentation to the IOC members was fantastic and done in nearly perfect English. It was a message that clearly resonated.

"Ten years ago, when Pyeongchang began its dream to host the Winter Games, I was a young girl beginning my own Olympic dream in an ice rink in Seoul," she said. "I'm an example of a living legacy of our government's effort to improve the standard of Korean winter sports."

As nice as it to see the Winter Games returning to Asia 20 years after they were in Nagano, it was even more enjoyable to see somebody like Kim, who was clearly raised the right way and is proud of her country, triumph.

In the wake of the disgusting sham of a presidential election by FIFA in June, this contest was a breath of fresh air. Pyeongchang's margin of victory was impressive. It not only won in the first round, but by wide margin over Munich (63 to 25).

Kim wept tears of joy after IOC president Jacques Rogge announced Pyeongchang's victory and was congratulated by South Korean president Lee Myung Bak.

News photo
Charismatic: Kim Yu Na dazzled IOC members in South Africa this week as she promoted Pyeongchang's bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. AP PHOTO

"We have gone through so much for this moment," the Korea Times reported Kim told the SBS television network. "Winning the Olympics was a personal priority, but Pyeongchang is a national priority."

South Korea will put on a great show in 2018 because it really wanted the Games. An IOC study found that 87 percent of the nation was in favor of the bid.

Apathy has no place in the Olympics, which bring us to the talk of Tokyo contemplating a bid for the 2020 Summer Games.

As farcical as it is for Tokyo to consider this, especially in light of the fact the preceding Olympics will be held in a neighboring country, if it is going to bid, it should take a page out of Pyeongchang's book and try a new approach.

Tokyo will never win with a figure like Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara as the focal point of the bid. He represents the past, not the future, and his history of making racially insensitive comments will only compound matters.

We saw the disastrous results of the 2016 bid engineered by Ishihara. The ¥15 billion price tag, which included an outrageous ¥500 million for a 10-minute promotional video (you could have had Steven Spielberg do it for that), and the ¥260,000 suits the delegation to wore to the IOC meeting in Copenhagen, where the final vote was held. It was completely over the top.

What Tokyo needs, in addition to many new venues and a realistic plan, is an individual with gravitas like Kim at the forefront. A fresh face who represents the potential of Japan.

Two-time world skating champion Mao Asada immediately comes to mind. It has to be somebody the country will get behind or there is really no point.

If Japan wants to be a factor on the international sports stage in the years to come, the days of the "old boys network" are going to have to become a thing of the past. We all know traditions die hard in Japan, but it's time to get real.

We are coming up on 50 years now since Tokyo hosted the Summer Games. If the Japan Olympic Committee doesn't get its act together soon, it will be 50 more years before it gets another chance.



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