Third Time's The Charm - Part IV, Final Chapter
Part IV, Final Chapter: May - July 2011
Terrence Burns ©2014
With SportAccord behind us, we could now focus on our final three presentations, ANOCA in Togo, the IOC Technical Presentation in Lausanne (hereafter referred to as “Lausanne”), and the Final Presentation in Durban (hereafter referred to as “Durban”). As with every presentation we made, I told the team it was irrelevant how well we did or did not do in the last presentation, what mattered was the next presentation.
The Lausanne Presentation was added during the 2016 Olympic Games campaign in order to provide the IOC Members with a forty-five minute presentation on the technical aspects of the bids. Given IOC Members were still not allowed to visit the bid cities, many felt this new presentation would give them an opportunity to delve more deeply into the technical aspects of each bid given the IOC Final Presentations tend to be more emotional than technical.
Much mystery and myth surround the IOC Technical Presentations because each team bid can only have six presenters (plus their IOC Members if they have any), and the presentation is a closed-door session to the IOC Members only. Although the IOC does not publish absolute guidelines, it is generally felt, or imagined, that they would like each presentation to be about seventy percent technical and about thirty percent emotional.
The prevailing Olympic legend is that in the 2016 race, Rio was behind at this late stage of the campaign. Realizing this, Rio decided to do three bold things for Lausanne: they attacked the economic question by bringing in the president of Brazil's Central Bank, Henrique Meirelles, to assure the IOC members of the country’s solvency and long-term economic outlook. They focused on the more emotive and festive aspects of their bid, instead of the technical ones. And, that is when they also introduced "The Map." Perhaps that strategy helps to explain the current, ongoing drama with the technical preparations for Rio 2016.
Each successive bid since that time has attempted, in one way or another, to emulate some of the Rio strategy for the Lausanne presentation; e.g., more emotion. We certainly did.
Over the course of the previous presentations, Theresa Rah established herself amongst the Olympic Family as the “must see” portion of each PyeongChang performance. Now it was time to launch our second secret weapon, Yuna Kim.
Prior to Lausanne, we received intense inquiries from the media and from friends around the Movement as to when we would “unveil” Yuna. Given what we believed at the time (and what we were hearing from our Olympic Family friends), Rio really did alter the 2016 race with their Lausanne presentation. Rio not only made up ground on its competitors, but also emerged as the perceived front-runner in many people’s minds.
Based on this, it made sense to introduce Yuna to the IOC during the Lausanne presentation. We did not want to “save” her for Durban for two reasons: 1) we felt we were getting closer to Munich, so a strong Lausanne presentation with her presence might help us be perceived as “equals”, and 2) we had another “surprise” for Durban (more on that later).
Preparations for the Lausanne presentations took place again first in Seoul and then in Lausanne. We made the decision early to place more emotional emphasis than expected in Lausanne. Part of this was of course ensuring we had memorable films to support the overall message. I envy filmmakers, I really do because I lack any talent whatsoever to be one and I think they do interesting work. But I am also glad that I am not a filmmaker in bids. Films, or any design or art, are extremely subjective – especially across cultures.
For Lausanne, we had scheduled two “emotive” films and one technical film. As I said, emotive films are often a challenge across cultures and this presentation proved no exception.
The bid committee wanted changes to the two New Moon films.
Barnaby Logan, Jace Oh and I spent many hours in our Montreux hotel (where we were holding the Lausanne rehearsals) refining the films to the bid committee’s satisfaction. It happens with virtually every bid.
As I said, I do not envy filmmakers, but Caroline Roland and Barnaby Logan of New Moon came through with great films for Lausanne.
The evening before our presentation we all had a traditional Swiss dinner of meat and cheese fondue at Le Chalet Swiss.
This authentic Swiss chalet is located in the Sauvabelin woods, overlooking the city of Lausanne and Lake Geneva.
In addition to Yuna, we had two new “speakers” for the Lausanne presentation. I use quotation marks for the word “speakers” as one was live and one appeared via video.
Below left, the president of Korea, Mr. Myung Bak Lee, appeared on video, and below right, Mr. Sung-Hwan Kim, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Republic of Korea had an onstage speaking role.
These two gentlemen focused on Korea’s commitment to sport and affirmed Korea’s commitments to the guarantees that are required by the IOC. Minister Kim’s English was impeccable and he was an excellent speaker.
Presidents of countries have gravitas that always manifests better live than on video. President Lee's video was good in that he followed the script we created (that is not always the case with some heads of state), but we had no control over the set up or filming. In the film, I thought President Lee was difficult to understand, and it was shot at a curious angle. But I also knew we would have him “live” in Durban. The point for Lausanne was to illustrate complete government commitment to the bid. President Lee and Minister Kim did that in spades.
At first I struggled with exactly how and where to use Yuna in the presentation. What message would she be most effective in delivering? What area of the bid narrative best fit her personality and experience?
The most obvious section of the presentation to use an athlete pertains to the venue plan or the Village. So, we made the decision to let Yuna and Dae-Sung Moon (Olympian and IOC Member) handle these two areas.
Initially this seemed like a “waste”, using a vivacious personality like Yuna to discuss the technical plan. But we were able to use her unique personality and fame in a humble way. She began by telling the IOC Members that she was more nervous speaking English in front of them than she had been in front of billions of television viewers watching her perform live in Vancouver – and she was nervous, but it came across as charming and sweet.
She also told them that her purpose there that day was much more important than a Gold Medal. She told them about the often-lonely nature of her sport, and she told them that her success as an athlete was directly attributed to Korea’s “Drive the Dream” program; a program that supports young winter sports athletes in Korea.
Her performance was touching and very personal. She managed to inject emotion and honest personal feelings into the technical portion of our presentation. And, she looked great onstage with Dae-Sung and Theresa.
Lausanne also held another surprise. For the first time, PyeongChang used the French language in a portion of our presentation. By this point in the campaign, the messaging from Munich shifted to something like “this is not a race about geography” in an attempt to counter the New Horizons platform for a Winter Games in Asia.
Theresa’s opening remarks were calculated to counter attack that notion head on by using the same precise words, and she did so in flawless, emotional French. This is the gist (the original English text) of how she began her presentation:
Geography refers to a place, to a space that we can feel, touch and see.
But the Olympic spirit is not attached to one geographical location: it is universal.
The Olympic Spirit lives in the dreams, expectations and the hearts of all people, young or old, wherever they are.
That is why this is not a competition about geography.
This is a competition about dreams.
It was a beautiful sentiment delivered beyond description. It used Munich’s own argument – “this is not a race about geography” – to great effect for PyeongChang’s cause. And it illustrated that PyeongChang was capable of delivering a sophisticated, international, and cosmopolitan image to the world.
Theresa often protested (politely) that her French was not perfect, and she was self-conscious about it – but who would not be, speaking in not one but two non-native languages in front of the IOC. But no one in the room expected perfection. What they did expect was determination, heart, passion and a desire to host the 2018 Winter Games. I believe they got all of that, and even more.
As the team left the presentation room the media surrounded them. The presenters were beaming. They went into the “Lion’s Den” and came out not only alive, but certain in their hearts that they did a superb job.
I have worked with a lot of bids but I have never seen a team of people work as hard as did the Koreans – not just the presenters, but everyone on the PyeongChang bid committee.
They were relentless in their preparations and it finally paid off.
The PyeongChang team gathered on the steps of the Olympic Museum to savor the moment.
Everyone was smiling and taking pictures of the Museum, the lake, the sky and each other.
The post-presentation meeting held in a tiny bar of the bid committee’s Lausanne hotel was crisp and upbeat, as everyone was leaving. The team was still buoyant, perhaps buoyed by many large glasses of Swiss beer. Everyone realized that we made tremendous progress for the bid in Lausanne. We had time for one large breath of relief, but we also knew that I was delivering a new showflow and round of speeches to the team within seven days to start rehearsing for Durban.
I got on a train for Zürich to catch a flight, and immediately received a call from an IOC Member who not only stated that he thought PyeongChang had the best presentation, but that it was surprisingly good.
His call and other immediate, similar feedback made me realize that we had finally broken through the “star power” of the excellent Munich 2018 bid team. Munich’s presentation was still extraordinary both in style and in substance, but I now felt we at least had a fighting chance. But we still had a very long way to go.
The Final Lap
But before we got to Durban, we had one more stop to make in Africa. Late in 2010, the bid committees all elected to move the presentation to the African National Olympic Committees (ANOCA) on 29 June of 2011; just one week prior to our Final Presentation in Durban. Bad timing. Had we known how exhausted we would all be by June of 2011, I believe that we would have voted to keep the ANOCA presentation in 2010.
We combined our ANOCA and Durban presentations rehearsals in Seoul because the presentations were only 8 days apart.
We would fly (again on Elvis 1) from Seoul, then a fuel stop in Austria, then over the Sahara Desert to Lomé, Togo; all of this for a fifteen-minute presentation.
The ANOCA presentation was to a smaller audience so we decided to give Yuna another speaking role along with YH Cho, Theresa and YS Park. The content was essentially the same as the other continental NOC presentations, but with extra key messages aimed at the African NOCs.
The flight to Lomé was spectacular. We flew directly over the Saharan Desert. It was an incredibly clear day and we could easily see the details of the massive, red desert below. It looked like the pictures from the Mars Rover. Again, those of us in the plane were dashing from window to window, from side to side to take pictures of the stunning landscape below.
At over 9,400,000 square kilometers (3,600,000 square miles), the Sahara (Arabic: الصحراء الكبرى, aṣ-Ṣaḥrāʾ al-Kubrā , 'the Great Desert') is the world's hottest dessert. It is also the world’s third largest after Antarctica and the Arctic. The Sahara covers most of North Africa, making it almost as large as China or the United States.
And here is something I did not know until I researched it for this post (thank you Wikipedia). “The climate of the Sahara has undergone enormous variations between wet and dry over the last few hundred thousand years. This is due to a 41,000-year cycle in which the tilt of the earth changes between 22° and 24.5°. At present (2,000 CE), we are in a dry period, but it is expected that the Sahara will become green again in 15,000 years (17,000 CE)."
Upon arrival in Lomé we were led to a VIP lounge while our passports and visas were examined. The lounge, though basic, was comfortable, had air-conditioning and they offered us cold drinks.
As we made our way to the hotel, we looked intensely at the city around us. It was a whirling menagerie of color and sound.
And when we arrived at the hotel, dozens of people were there, cheering and singing for us and the other bid teams. We all felt like rock stars.
Again, the intimacy of this presentation brought the three bid teams closer together. Maybe it was the realization that this was our last time together before Durban, but we all seemed a bit melancholy. Below left, Gunilla Lindberg, YS Park, Thomas Bach and Young-Sook Lee. Below right, Bernhard Schwank, Theresa Rah and YH Cho.
YS Park was always the life of the party, even in Togo. Below, Here he is with Yuna and Theresa, both of whom I am sure have this photo proudly displayed on their walls.
The hotel had new mattresses for every room – mine still wrapped in plastic. The hotel wireless network worked better outside on the balcony than in the cement walled rooms, so we often stood out on our balconies to do our email and get online. John Moon’s room was next to mine.
After the presentation, we had an afternoon of free time. Chairman Cho took the team sightseeing and to a great lunch.
Lome lunch with the team.
Above Left: Theresa Rah, Seungwon Chung and Young-Sook Lee
Above Right: Laszlo Vajda, Yong-Soon Kim, Jiyoung Jung
The journey to Durban from Lomé was a bit complicated. Chairman Cho had a few things to do in France first, so we flew overnight, arriving very early in the morning in Nice, France. After a quick morning nap, we had a nice day walking around Nice. Later that evening, most of us took a flight to Doha for an overnight connection, and then onto Durban the next day.
Below is our group photo on our last Elvis 1 trip, arrival in Nice.
Below left, Yuna and her team upon arrival in Nice early in the morning; below right, the gang later that afternoon for lunch.
Durban Town, Finish Line
Durban is a surfer’s town on the east coast of South Africa. It is also the city that would break the hearts of two 2018 Candidate Cities and send one Candidate City home with the Olympic prize.
In April, Mr. Sangil Woo of the PyeongChang bid committee sent me a video about a young Korean-American skier, Toby Dawson. The documentary, “Lost and Found” chronicled Toby’s remarkable story and life. Toby was born in Korea and was “lost” at a supermarket when he was just three years old. A couple from Vail, Colorado in the United States adopted him. Toby learned how to ski and eventually won a Bronze Medal in Moguls at the 2006 Turin Winter Games.
A light went off in my head. Toby was the ultimate “proof point” for New Horizons. His story and his life were precisely why Asia needed the 2018 Winter Games. Toby could put a face and a real story behind our New Horizons strategy. It was perfect. There was just one catch. Many in the bid committee had misgivings about Toby presenting - here is why.
First, Toby self identified as an “American”. He may have been born in Korea, was ethnically Korean and looked Korean, but in many Korean’s eyes he was an American – he was even an American Olympic medalist. Why do we need an American in our presentation?, I was asked.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, around the time of Toby’s disappearance and adoption, there was an accusation that some Korean families were selling their infant and toddler children for money to adoption agencies in other countries, such as the United States. Whether this was true or not, it understandably upset enough of my Korean colleagues that they did not want any hint of this terrible accusation linked to the bid.
I understood all of this – but I knew Toby and his story would be crucial to our narrative in Durban. I needed an ally.
The first thing I knew I had to do was to get Theresa onboard with the idea because she too had misgivings about Toby’s participation. I remember the email exchange.
She was nervous about upsetting me, so as usual she was very diplomatic and precise. She simply was not sure how his story would add credence to the bid.
Toby was also an “unknown” to the speaking team and its chemistry, and yes, his kidnapping and adoption story was also a cause of concern.
I said, "Theresa, before you make up your mind, will you please read the first draft of his speech?"
She said, “Yes, I will read it.”
I sent her the speech.
I waited for the reply.
She replied and the email read, “I had tears in my eyes reading it…yes, yes, yes, I am onboard with Toby.”
The Final Presentation to the IOC in Durban, on 6 July 2011 was either going to be the end of a ten-year Olympic odyssey for the PyeongChang bid and the people of Korea, or the beginning of a new chapter in the country’s Olympic dream. This was high stakes at its most visible and tense. After three bids, millions of dollars, investments in new winter sports venues and unbelievable persistence, the people of the PyeongChang 2018 bid committee were either going to have a very long plane ride home with a lot of explaining to do once they arrived, or, go home as heroes. It was that simple. Our job was to help them achieve the latter. That part, is never that simple.
Thinking back to those early days of internal conflict, warring factions and resistance to outside influence, I found it hard to believe how far the bid had come. Acapulco seemed like years ago, even though it was only a brief eight months past. But during those eight months, mountains were moved.
The bid had a new brand and a new message that was clear and powerful. The entire bid committee, the people behind the scenes and not on stage, was executing as a finely tuned unit on all aspects. And as predicted in Acapulco, the bid presentation team had improved each and every time, to the point of being considered an “equal” of Munich and Annecy.
Chairman Cho found his voice and role in the bid as its quiet but effective leader. Theresa Rah emerged as our muse, our spokesperson and our star. As we began the long march to Durban, I was very pleased at our progress and positioning in the race as of May of 2011.
As I began working with the showflow I came up with an idea that I knew I would have to “sell” hard to the bid committee – because it was unconventional. Heretofore, Theresa had proven to be our most persuasive and effective speaker. In bid presentations you must begin and end with your strongest two speakers. For PyeongChang’s final presentation, I suggested (strongly) that we do something unique: although Theresa was not the bid leader, I argued that after the opening “mood setting” film, we let Theresa both open, and then close the presentation.
The opening of these presentations always starts with a long list of salutations, expressions of gratitude as well as team introductions. It takes away valuable time from the forty-five minute time limit. I knew that Theresa could quickly move through the necessary Olympic protocol and still deliver our opening key messages. There was of course some strenuous debate, but Chairman Cho listened to my argument and agreed immediately; again, no ego, what a wonderful thing.
Here was the showflow of the PyeongChang 2018 Final Presentation in Durban.
Film 1 – Korea Loves Winter Sport 2:30
Theresa Rah 4:00
YH Cho 3:00
President Lee 3:30
Governor Kim 3:00
Yuna Kim 3:30
Technical Film 4:00
Dae-Sung Moon 3:00
YS Park and film 2 5:00
Toby Dawson 4:00
Theresa Rah 4:45
Film 3 3:00
For Durban we also had Korean President Lee as a presenter. He and I did not have an opportunity to rehearse in Seoul, but he had received his speech prior to leaving for Durban. He arrived in Durban hoarse from rehearsing his speech over and over on the plane. That did not stop him however, and we immediately began intense rehearsals onsite. Dedicated people.
In Durban he was affable and easy going. I have worked with heads of state that raised the tension (or fear) in a room the second they walked in; not so with President Lee.
He was likable, approachable, coachable and willing to work as hard as everyone else. I told him if he moved to the US I would vote for him, but he could not run for the office of the US presidency, as he was not native born. He laughed.
Durban also marked the first and only time that Governor Kim, leader of the two former bids, presented onstage with PyeongChang 2018. He and I worked a lot on his speech.
As a veteran of the two previous bids, he had a great deal of personal insight and a lot of emotion to share. I think he also sensed that this was it – this was the last attempt for PyeongChang.
He put a tremendous amount of effort into his rehearsals. His presence onstage in a speaking role also helped to nullify some of the rumors being spread about that our bid was politically dysfunctional. Everything one does or says communicates in a bid.
More PyeongChang rehearsal photos from Durban:
Above left, one of my favorite photographs from the campaign. Chairman Cho, using his smart phone to film Korean President Lee rehearsing
We had Yuna again but with a different message than she delivered in Lausanne. I coached her by telling her that IOC Members were used to seeing and hearing from great Olympic champions like herself. But having a Gold Medal was not enough to move hearts and minds. I told her she had to connect with the audience as “Yuna Kim, the young woman from Seoul”, not as “Queen Yuna, the Olympic Champion.” She listened, nodded her head once, and instinctively got it.
The morning of our presentation finally arrived. Our team was sequestered in a "Green Room" near the presentation hall.
We anxiously watched both Annecy and Munich present first; both were excellent. I felt that Thomas Bach gave his best speech of the campaign. Like all great athletes, he saved his best for the actual competition.
Some of our presenters were practicing their lines, some talking and some were somber.
Chairman Cho and Governor Kim seemed very relaxed - very Zen.
The morning of 6 July 2011, prior to the PyeongChang 2018 presentation. At left, one final run-through with Theresa, at right, Theresa and YH at breakfast.
When it became our turn, we were led into the hall and down a roped off corridor to assemble one last time as a team before we entered the presentation hall. The speaking team sat arrayed around President Kim as he gave them his last words of encouragement. I already had given my pep-talk in the Green Room.
Theresa once again led us off flawlessly, and after the introductions and protocol she quickly got the heart of her first speech (version 12, by the way).
...I have also learned something else quite interesting: words are very important in the Olympic Movement.
Words can inspire us to take action, and they can even make us believe in the seemingly impossible.
Ten years ago, many people thought hosting the Winter Games in Korea was impossible.
And after our previous bids, we could have been tempted to believe that as well.
But we didn’t.
After each disappointment, we got up; we dusted ourselves off, we listened to you and learned from our mistakes - and we tried again.
To get through these challenges, we focused on two important words – persistence and patience.
Chairman Cho’s speech varied little from SportAccord, though we tried a little humor with him, which he pulled off very well. He congratulated both Annecy and Munich and wished them luck…”just not too much of it”. The audience did not expect him to be “cheeky”, and it worked. Chairman Cho also reiterated the unity of the bid, graciously (and surprising to some) thanking Governor Kim for his efforts over two previous bids and YS Park for his tireless efforts on behalf of the bid.
I will state here that Chairman Cho personally wanted to reach out to Governor Kim and YS Park in this last speech – it was not a theatrical ploy. Chairman Cho has a quiet and somewhat shy persona, but behind that quaint smile is a fiercely competitive personality. He understood very well the role he had been thrust into and he understood the tensions inherent in the various factions of the bid. But most importantly, he understood what it would take to win. So he acted accordingly. And finally, for the last time, Chairman Cho explained the concept of “New Horizons”, he said,
Our vision is clear and it is unique.
To deliver on this vision, we offer five compelling reasons for your support:
- We have the most compact, efficient Games plan, including our venues and transport infrastructure;
- We have total government commitment and support at every level;
- We have the passionate support of the Korean people
- We have kept our commitments to the Olympic Family for over ten years, and
- PyeongChang 2018 would be the first Winter Games in Korea and only the third Winter Games in Asia.
President Lee came next. At first we suggested that he begin his speech in English, then switch to Korean to make it easier for him; as a head of state, that is usually acceptable. But he would have none of it, and insisted that he wanted to give his entire speech in English because that is what he had been practicing. So he did.
He reiterated his history in sport, serving FINA for many years. With great emotion he said that Korea competed in its first Winter Games in St. Moritz in 1948, noting that his nation had no central government and was so poor that it could only send three skaters to the Games. Then, just 40 years later, Seoul hosted the 1988 Winter Games. That was the point in his speech, with accompanying photos of those three 1948 Korean Olympians on the screen behind him, that touched more than a few hearts in the room.
Governor Kim’s speech was a remarkably personal one.
Imagine standing there in front of the IOC for the third time. Imagine all the hard work, sacrifice and patience he personally endured over the previous ten years of continual bidding, and two broken hearts. Imagine the message he wanted to deliver that day in Durban.
The words below are essentially his, and as he said them. He choked up, just a little – but he took a deep breath – as did we all – and continued on:
Esteemed President Jacques Rogge, and distinguished IOC Members,
I believe it is my destiny to stand before you… for the third time.
And our people have waited… for over 10 years.
It was a moving and sincere moment. I believe every person in the room that day understood, at the deepest personal level, Governor Kim’s passion and desire for the 2018 Winter Games and what a long ten years it had really been for him, personally.
Yuna began her presentation by a heartfelt acknowledgment of Katarina Witt as a great champion and great ambassador of their sport.
Up until that point, Yuna and Katarina had been in the same room only once during the campaign, in Lome.
She spoke from the heart as to how and why she chose figure skating as her sport – it was simply because there were very few winter sports options in Korea – thus the need for New Horizons.
Yuna also explained that “there are legacies more important than venues and facilities – there are human legacies – I am one of them.”
Her delivery was perfect and poised, and it was impressive to see so much charisma from such a tiny person fill such a large room.
Next came Dae-Sung Moon. He gave an excellent overview of the Games and venue plan. Dae-Sung noted that Seoul ’88 was the first time that the Olympic and Paralympic Games appeared together, which highlighted the issue of accessibility for all Koreans. Dae-Sung grew from a reluctant presenter in Acapulco to a powerful and dynamic speaker by Durban. His martial arts training was evident when he made an emphatic point in his speech with a powerful pump of his fist. I learned to stay out of the way of it during rehearsals. He also had an infectious smile and a gentle sense of civility that help calmed nerves in stressful situations.
YS Park came next. YS is truly one of the most original “characters” in the Olympic Movement. He has more energy than men half his age. He seemingly knows everyone in the Olympic Movement on a personal basis and more importantly, he understands how “it all works”. YS was originally quite difficult to script – meaning, it was difficult to get him to stay on script.
His mind was always far ahead of what was going on in the present tense. But by Durban, he too had buckled down and was adept at delivering his lines.
Because it would be unexpected to the audience, I felt that we needed a bit more humor in the presentation and that YS was the only person who could deliver – and get away with the two items I planned for his remarks. He began by acknowledging President Rogge and the IOC Members, and then he said:
I know that it has been a long day for you. Well, it’s been a long time for us, too!
Many in the audience laughed out loud and YS, with his impeccable timing, waited for it to die down.
For background, Prince Albert of Monaco had literally just married that month (July 2011). YS continued,
But if you would allow me please, I would first like to offer our sincere congratulations to Prince Albert on his wedding, and to say:
“Your Serene Highness, I am sorry that you are spending your honeymoon listening to PyeongChang’s bid for a third time.”
The room howled with laughter. YS tilted his head, appearing to look at the audience out of one eye and smiled slyly – and they laughed even more. Later, my IOC friends in Bid City relations told me that PyeongChang had broken a rule by directly addressing an IOC Member during the presentation. We did not receive the dreaded IOC warning letter.
YS introduced Toby and the room grew very quiet; they wondered why his title slide said US Bronze Medalist.
We had kept Toby away from the media (mostly) in the days leading up to the presentation because we wanted him to be a surprise.
When Toby first arrived in Durban I went to his hotel room and asked him to read the speech for me. He did, and looked up at me and said, “dude, you’re in my head…” which I took to be a compliment. We worked on the speech until version six, which was what he delivered.
Toby, who had never given a presentation to the Olympic Family in his life, paused at the podium after being introduced by YS.
He took a breath, and he took it all in.
Then he blew the room away.
My name is Toby Dawson.
My name is also Kim Bong-Seok.
I am a free-style skier, and, I am an Olympian.
I am a Korean by birth, yet I am also an American.
That last sentence contains an entire story about the true potential of PyeongChang 2018 and the legacy of New Horizons, and it is why I am honored to be here today.
I was born in Busan, South Korea in 1978. When I was three years old a couple in the United States adopted me – luckily for me, they lived in Vail, Colorado.
My parents introduced me to skiing at an early age as a means to adapt to a new family and a new culture.
It gave me the confidence to believe in myself as a kid, as a teenager and as a young man.
That is the true gift of sport – it provides hope.
Thinking back on it now, I realize that had I remained in Korea, I may not have had the chance to be an Olympian.
New Horizons has a simple goal: to give young Koreans and young athletes from other regions access to world-class winter sport facilities for the first time, in Korea, in their own region – the same chance that I was fortunate to receive in America.
That’s what this bid is about. It’s about... hope.
So, you may ask yourself: to whom are we listening, today?
To Toby Dawson, the American Olympian?
Or to Kim Bong-Seok, the lost little Korean boy with the ability to be an Olympian but with limited opportunities to do so…
Well, to be honest, you are listening to both.
I came here today to achieve two things:
- First, I want to honor my home country and its people – my people; I want to return, in some small measure the good fortune that I’ve received in my life from sport; and
- Second, I want to speak for future generations in Korea and beyond – I ask you to give them the same chance that I received when I moved to America in 1981. The chance to hope, the chance to participate, the chance to excel and the chance to succeed.
Your support today of PyeongChang 2018 would truly change the lives of millions of kids dreaming of being a winter Olympian, who, frankly have never had that opportunity.
I believe that there is no greater honor than representing one’s country at the Olympic Games. It is my dream that every child, everywhere in the world, can hope for that possibility.
The one hundred PyeongChang guests in the room, most of whom had not seen any of the rehearsals, leapt to their feet cheering, many if not most in tears.
I admit I had a hard time not getting emotional myself, and I knew what he was going to say!
Toby and his story proved the doubters wrong. His was a story that not only touched people’s hearts, it once again proved the powerful, singular argument of New Horizons.
After the presentation and PyeongChang’s win, Toby reconnected with his homeland and his birth family. He went on to coach the Korean ski team. Good things happen to good people. Go, Toby, go.
Finally we were nearing the end of not just the presentation, but of almost two long years together as a team; no, let me rephrase that, as a family. For our “close”, we brought our “ace” back onstage to bring us home and to victory: Theresa Rah. I honestly cannot find enough superlatives to say about Theresa Rah.
Clearly she was the anchor, the backbone of all PyeongChang presentations. She gave us credibility when we needed it and she delivered the message consistently and professionally, sometimes when all else fell short. She gave simple words I wrote incredible new meaning and passion. She was a great collaborator on her speeches and others’ too. She also spent hours with Chairman Cho, helping him with his presentation skills.
But Theresa was more than a tremendous presenter. She was also a tremendous person; kind to all, helpful to everyone and a solid, logical thinker in times (and there are many in an Olympic bid) of strife or crisis.
The Olympic Movement fell in love with her, and it will neither see nor hear the likes of her again unless she decides to participate in the PyeongChang Organizing Committee. I personally hope she finds a role in PyeongChang 2018. The Olympic Movement needs more people like Theresa Rah.
For Theresa’s closing speech we again returned to the theme of geography and our strategy to turn Munich’s new message around to our own benefit.
Theresa opened with this:
Some have said that this is a contest between the roots of traditional winter sports and the new shores of opportunity.
Some have said that the Winter Games need to return to their traditional markets to be replenished.
Actually, of the 21 Winter Games held so far since 1924, 19 of them have been held in traditional winter sports markets, and only two have been hosted in Asia, and none in Korea.
So, if any region needs replenished, we humbly propose that we need the Winter Games in Asia to nurture the seeds that were planted in Sapporo and in Nagano so that they too, can grow and flourish.
But this race is not about geography.
It is a race about dreams.
It is a race about human potential.
Once again we asked Theresa to switch to speaking in French and she explained that the legacy of PyeongChang 2018 would reach far beyond venues and facilities – it would enable and energize the dreams of Asian youth.
She closed the presentation in English with another powerful message about hope.
Today is one of the most important days in the lives of every member of our team. Although I will admit, the memory of this day will be a lot sweeter if you choose PyeongChang.
It is an honor to represent our country, but perhaps even more poignant, it is an honor to have the chance to impact the lives of millions of young people in the future.
That is something that only the Olympic Movement can provide to us, and it is something that only PyeongChang 2018, can provide to you.
Uniquely, PyeongChang 2018 offers you both a historic choice and a historic chance: to bring the Winter Games to Korea for the first time and back to Asia for only the third time - and in doing so, help us to deliver the potential, the promise, and yes, the hope, of PyeongChang 2018 to millions of new hearts and minds around the world.
So, one last PyeongChang film and then it was over; it was suddenly, irrevocably over. The response from the audience was immediate, intense and warm. Ed Hula, veteran Olympic journalist, editor and founder of Around the Rings was seated a few feet away. He instantly texted me the following: “superb presentation, best of the day, well done.” Ed does not hand out compliments easily.
After we left the hall there was a certain sense of very cautious optimism. Every presenter knew they had "hit their marks" in the presentation. In the final dress rehearsal the day before, we (those of us in the room) felt the magnitude of all of the speeches, films and graphics coming together for the first time. Presentations are truly like symphonies, all the disparate pieces come together and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
After the final presentation with a live audience, we felt this emotion again, but even more so. We felt the audience's energy reflected back to the team on stage. And we felt their emotions "willing" the team along. There is no doubt that there was a lot of sympathy for PyeongChang and its third attempt, but sympathy does not win bids.
Later that day on a beautiful Durban afternoon, the three bids all assembled in the hall for the announcement. The large and anxious contingents of French, German and Korean delegates sat literally on the edge of their seats. The IOC Members assembled onstage. I remember looking at each of them, trying to catch an expression or a glance at any city that might give a hint as to who had won. Nothing. They were smiling, but not giving anything away.
Finally, the sealed envelope was passed to IOC President Jacques Rogge. He opened it and read the words that millions of Koreans had been waiting to hear for almost ten years: "The International Olympic Committee has the honor of announcing that the 23rd Olympic Winter Games in 2018 are awarded to the city of PyeongChang."
The response was instantaneous and it was volcanic.
The Korean delegation exploded in a frenzy of hysterical delight. For a people who claimed they did not like to smile, the eruption of emotion was amazing.
I saw many hugs, including the famous one on the left. There were literal tears of joy streaming from face after face. If there is a Gold Medal for winning a bid, PyeongChang should win that, too.
The parties and celebrations lasted long into the night. We met with our friends from Munich and Annecy, all of whom were gracious and kind in spite of their disappointment. The spirit of Olympism is real and other than the field of play, nowhere does it both inspire and soothe more so than an Olympic bid.
The next day was a haze of hastily set up meetings, interviews and yes, long and tearful goodbyes. It was incredibly hard to say goodbye to the PyeongChang team. I was extraordinarily fortunate and honored to work with them. I loved them all not just for who they were or what they did, but for what they represented: indomitable will and determination. They embodied hope. They made me better.
To my PyeongChang family, I say "thank you" for the trip of a lifetime, in so many ways. The experience with you gave me insight into the young man who was my father, from 1950-1952.
His time serving in the Korean War changed him and his life. He treasured his time there, as much as one can in war, and his words, which I recall hearing virtually all of my life took on a new meaning for me after spending almost two years among these incredible people that he loved so well.
Dad would look at me and say, “Son, the Korean people are the smartest and hardest working people on earth…I learned everything I know about hard work from them.” And for the record, my father worked very, very hard.
So PyeongChang, more than winning a bid, you provided something even more precious to me. You gave me a very real, enduring and new connection with my dear, departed father. That is a gift that is impossible to describe or to repay. Thank you.
Every bid has a story – whether it wins or loses. And each of these stories is full of incredibly brave, dedicated people all of whom fervently believe that the Olympic dream and its ideals will help make their home, and the world a better place. And each of these bids, win or lose, deserves our tremendous respect and gratitude.
They are the dreamers. They are the believers. They are our tomorrow.
So to Munich, Annecy and every other bid who ever took the leap of faith and walked on stage, I say Godspeed, great job, thank you for believing and I pray that you all live to compete again.
The world today needs something to believe in; it needs heroes, and the Olympics provide heroes in droves. But heroes aren’t always found on the field of play. Heroes are also found in that most fragile and humble member of the Olympic Family, Bid Committees.
These are the people dreaming of hosting an Olympic Games against all odds.
These are the people standing, sometimes petrified, behind a podium in giant, dark rooms pouring out their hearts to the Olympic Family.
These are the people who sacrifice precious time away from their families and friends, travelling the globe in an exhausting effort to find at least one more friendly voice of support.
And these are the average citizens, not connected to the Bid Committee, who stand in the snow or rain for hours to warmly welcome the IOC Evaluation Commission when it comes to town. These are the quiet Olympic heroes.
Without them, there would be no Host Cities.
Without Host Cities there would be no Olympic Games.
And without the Olympic Games, there would be no hope.
Special thanks to Stratos Safioleas for use of his photos and review/edit/memory help. Stratos served PyeongChang 2014 and 2018 as their external International Media and Social Media Advisor.
Special thanks as well to Theresa Rah and Sharon Huff for their review/edit/memory help.
OUTTAKES FROM PYEONGCHANG 2018