Pyeongchang Ghost Town After the 2018 Olympics

The 2018 Winter Olympics, officially known as the XXIII Olympic Winter Games was the global winter multiple-sport event that took place between 9 and 25 February of 2018 in PyeongChang County, Gangwon Province, South Korea. The event was highly valuable for the host city because the Olympics has been hosted in the country one time previously, and the organizers needed to ensure that it is held to the highest standard possible. The Olympics are also highly valuable to the destinations in which they are being held because of the vast opportunities for future development and growth. Therefore, besides the successful planning and organization of the event, host cities should also consider whether their contribution would bring further possibilities of growth. This assessment aims to investigate the events occurring at the formation, growth, and staging phases of the PyeongChang 2018 Olympics based on the Event Life Cycle Model. Another goal is to analyze South Korea’s proposed plan for future development on the site of the event to boost the region’s reputation.

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At the formation stage of the Event Life Cycle, a process starting from idea to feasibility usually takes place. The selection of the host for the Olympics in new a new location reflects the tendency to push worldwide sporting events into new markets, which means bringing sports to new audiences as well as capturing the attention of new broadcasters and sponsors (Gibson, 2011). Thus, the idea to host the event in a new city highlights the need to align the 2018 Winter Olympics with the strategy of innovation and broadening new horizons. Sponsorships offered by large global companies also represented vast opportunities for the success of the event.

The growth stage of the Event Life includes the bidding campaign, the formation of the OC, the venue master plan and the post-event management plan, infrastructural development, event planning, and the strategy for the event’s branding. The bidding for the Olympics was among the most important because it would result in the naming of a host city. Among the three leaders, Annecy (France), Munich (Germany), and PyeongChang (South Korea), the latter received the most votes. Choosing a city in South Korea aligned with the strategy of broadening horizons and finding new audiences for the winter Olympics. In addition, this decision was reinforced by the trend of shifting global sporting power away from the traditional European setting to emerging global markets (Magnay 2011). Multiple venues were chosen for holding the competition in the mountain cluster of PyeongChang and the coastal cluster of Gangneung. For example, the Phoenix Snow Park would become the venue for freestyle skiing and snowboarding while the Gangneung Ice Arena would be used for short track speed skating and figure skating.

Significant investments into the infrastructure of the city to support the Olympics, including technologies. As reported by Takanashi, tech companies built infrastructure for wireless 5G, broadcasting, and cloud. Due to the global coverage of the Winter Olympics, it was imperative that such services would improve. Apart from the technological aspect of infrastructural development, the city also worked on the improvement of already existing venues as well as the establishment of new ones. For example, the Albensia Biathlon Centre in Alpensia Sports Park, PyeongChang, which was initially established in 1998, was renovated and improved throughout April 2016 and December 2016 to ensure that the venue is up to par with the requirements of the Winter Olympics. In terms of event branding, the 2018 Winter Olympics received significant support from international brands. McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Hershey’s, Canadian Tire, Samsung, Procter & Gamble, and many more participated in the celebrations and offered both visitors and athletes a variety of amenities and entertainment (Event Marketer, 2018). The overall success of the 2018 Winter Olympics was attributed to choosing a new location, engaging global companies, and working on the host’s infrastructure. However, it is imperative to review a plan for future development after the event.

There is a trend of cities hosting the Olympics failing to sustain their relevance. This is no exception for PyeongChang, which was left deserted and quiet after visitors left the town. South Korea spent $14 billion on the event with the hope that the Olympics would turn the mountainous area of the country into an all-season destination for tourists (Weber, 2018). In 2019, however, the rate of tourists is meager, and with the temporary stadium in Pyeongchang disassembled and other venues being torn down, the number of attractions that could spur some interest is limited. PueongChang’s challenge is extraordinarily complex because the area has previously enjoyed only limited tourism related to sports, with the local economy relying predominantly on agriculture and fishing. Therefore, for the region to attract tourists that would contribute to the economy, significant shifts in the current strategy are necessary.

The lack of legacy plans for some facilities built or restored for the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang is the critical issue that prevented the city from staying relevant (Staufenberg, 2016). It is recommended that stadiums and other facilities created for the event should have a purpose in the future. For example, instead of investing in a temporary venue, money could have been spent on improving the already existing infrastructure, thus having a long-term plan for the further use of locations and amenities. According to the Independent article by Coffey (2018, para. 4), upon the inspection of PyeongChang after the final inspection, the International Olympic Committee warned of the danger of creating “white elephants” with venues that would be expensive to maintain. While the strategy of using the 10,000-seat Hockey Center to host a corporate league hockey team had some potential, it is recommended for the government to be more proactive in the use of new venues.

Another critical recommendation for PyeongChang is to work on tourism product development by establishing affordable prices on hotel reservations, entertainment, and local cuisine. Long-term destination positioning is essential in this case because it will allow the local government to create sustainable growth (Ferreira, 2019). Instead of tearing down buildings that would have no use, it is necessary to develop a use for them, such as an amusement or theme park. Capitalizing on PyeongChang being a host for the Olympics is possible through dedicating the city to the event, branding its venues, and adding entertainment value to them. For example, collaborating with brands such as Samsung in creating an amusement park with the key theme of the Olympics to integrate the latest technologies will increase the relevance of the city and battle the reputation of a ‘ghost town.’ Overall, there should be more efforts targeted at sustaining the new venues and attractions instead of taking them down.

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Reference List

Coffey, H 2018, Winter Olympics 2018: is abandoned South Korean ski resort a warning to PyeongChang? Web.

Event Marketer 2018, Winter Olympics 2018: brand experiences from PyeongChang and beyond. Web.

Ferreira, M 2019, Role of destination management and destination marketing in tourism. Web

Gibson, O 2011, PyeongChang named as the host city for 2018 Winter Olympics. Web

Magnay, J 2011, PyeongChang named as host city for 2018 Winter Olympics. Web.  

Staufenberg, J 2016, Olympic legacy: haunting pictures show past games buildings left to crumble. Web.  

Takahashi, D 2018, Tech companies build infrastructure for billions to view the Winter Olympics. Web.

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