Gangneung, The 2018 Winter Olympics Winner
While the logo will say PyeongChang, Korea, the real winner of today’s 2018 Winter Olympics announcement is Gangneung (one of its historic sites is pictured left), a pleasant city of 250,000 on Korea’s east coast. The IOC’s decision to rewards PyeongChang the 2018 Games was a smart one for a host of reasons: geopolitical, environmental, and yes, sentimental. But while Gangwon Province and Yeongdong County (where PyeongChang is located) offer stunning Alpine scenery, the real treasure will be Gangneung, where marquee events like ice hockey and figure skating will reign. Korea’s east coast is a well kept travel secret. While Korea’s capital, Seoul, is a guilty pleasure full of 10 million-plus gregarious people, the East Sea offers a welcome contrast. In one day, visitors can hike steep mountains, relax at the beach, wander through timeless religious and historic sites, and enjoy fresh fish and local vegetables. Stuffed and grilled local squid is a favorite. For Gangneung (which was often spelled as Kangneung, Kangnung, or the unfortunate Gangrene), its citizens have a spectacular opportunity during the PyeongChang Olympics to show that Korea is far more than Seoul. Besides my personal feeling about Korea (I had lived there for over 3 years), the 2018 Winter Olympic Games promise to be a showcase for environmental stewardship and compact design. Korea often overlooked sustainability-related issues and its people’s quality of life while the country industrialized. Now that Korea has become one of the world’s mightiest economic powers, the country is turning inwards and working to provide citizens green space, cleaner air, healthier food, and even more seamless transport options. Let’s hope the 2018 games leaves a healthy legacy of improved infrastructure and open space in Gangneung--its friendly residents deserve the opportunity to prove that Korea’s east coast is well worth a short rail ride from Seoul.