We’ve got a little over a year to go before the next Olympic Games, which take place in PyeongChang, South Korea, and that means we’ve got plenty of time to get to know our next host city.
Each week until the next Olympics, we’re going to write a post about some aspect of the host. If you have suggestions for posts or burning questions, let us know, and we’ll try to address them.
First off, let’s talk about the name itself. The “PyeongChang” that you’re going to see everywhere is a rebranding of the name. Yep. The original spelling was Pyongchang, which is mighty close to Pyongyang, capital of everyone’s favorite dictatorship, North Korea. Add an “e,” capitalize the “c” and voilá! You have a brand-new city that is definitely not the same. Because you know some people are going to make that mistake and wind up in a very wrong place.
[Seriously, though, if North Korea wanted to have a little fun with the world, they should create some sort of plywood Olympic facade to greet people when they got out of the airport so they’d never notice the difference. See our authentic Olympic venues? Go on, go in! There’s no labor camps behind them!]
Back to our real host place. PyeongChang is a county (gun) in Gangwon province (do), so you might hear or see these referred to as PyeongChang-gun and Gangwon-do. That just specifies the county/province. [To add more confusion, North Korea also has a province pronounced the same way, but its English spelling is Kangwon. And it borders Gangwon-do. The only thing that would make this a more Bizarro World situation is if Pyongyang was in this province, but it’s not. According to Ganwon-do’s provincial website, the two provinces used to be one, but are now divided due to the war.]
Gangwon-do is in the northeast corner of South Korea. It’s got coastal access to the East Sea (aka Sea of Japan), is on the DMZ, and it’s also home to the Taebak Mountains, the Alps of Korea–in fact, many of the Olympic skiing events will be at Alpensia Sports Park, which is in PyeongChang-gun. Ice-related events will be east of this cluster in Gangneung, a separate city that’s closer to the coast of the East Sea . Two other venues hosting skiing events will be west and southwest of Alpensia in Bongpyeong-myeon (a township) and Jeongseon-gun.
PyeongChang 2018 boasts that its events are all within 30 minutes of Alpensia. How far is that from Seoul? It’s 182 km southeast of the country’s capital. According to a CNN article, that’s three and a half hours by car, but the country’s working on a high-speed train line that will make the journey a little under an hour.
Hopefully that gives you an idea of where in the world the Olympics will be in 2018 and what the media are talking about when they talk about PyeongChang.