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Asian Olympic double to unlock continent's potential

Kim Jin-sun, President and CEO of the PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, poses during an int
Kim Jin-sun, President and CEO of the PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, poses during an int

By Karolos Grohmann

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Asia's success in landing the Olympic double with the 2020 summer Games in Tokyo and South Korea's Pyeongchang hosting the 2018 winter Olympics will unlock the continent's potential, Pyeongchang Games chief said on Monday.

The South Korean mountain resort, which was awarded the Games in 2011, will become the first Asian city outside Japan to host the winter Games.

"Asia is a huge continent with a huge population. It has a great potential in many areas," Pyeongchang Games president Kim Jin-sun told Reuters in an interview.

"What the Olympics pursue is the worldwide expansion of sports so in this sense Tokyo 2020 and Pyeongchang 2018, only two years apart in Asia, provides us a great opportunity to awaken Asia's great potential."

He said this would bring with it "further development of related industries."

After decades where sport's biggest events were mostly split between Europe and North America, international sports bodies are increasingly turning to Asia.

With more than half of the world's population and a sharply burgeoning middle class, the continent boasts the fastest growing regional economy in the world.

In addition to staging the 2020 Olympics, Japan has also been picked to host the 2019 Rugby World Cup after unsuccessfully bidding for the 2011 tournament.

South Korea in turn will hold the world swimming championships for the first time in 2019 and the Presidents Cup golf tournament in 2015.

Beijing, which hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics, is the site for the next world athletics championships in 2015 while Nanjing, the capital of China's Jiangsu province, will stage next year's Youth Olympics.

ASIAN TREND

Singapore, one of a handful of Asian countries on the Formula One motor racing calendar, has been selected as the host for the end-of-season Women's Tennis Association championships for the next five years.

Kim, however, denied, the traditional power base of sport was shifting to the east for good, saying it was merely becoming a more balanced distribution with more East Asian bids for major events being submitted.

"The trend has been that many important mega events are planned and hosted in East Asia but I do not think the power base is shifting," said Kim, who saw Pyeongchang fail twice before being awarded the Games.

"We believe East Asia offers... the opportunity to host mega events. The IOC is eager to give even opportunities to each region in the world," Kim said, speaking through a translator.

The 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics are the first to be staged in South America.

With the Sochi 2014 winter Olympics under pressure due to the fallout over a Russian anti-gay law and the Rio preparations marred by delays and potential protests that also hit this summer's soccer Confederation Cup, Kim said Pyeongchang was prepared.

"It is not only the organizing committee but the city, the city government and regional government and the whole country that should be prepared to host the Games," he said.

"The whole nation should overcome outside problems. In this sense our national government has established a support committee."

(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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