Three cities make pitches
ACAPULCO, Mexico -- The race to stage the 2018 Winter Olympics began in earnest when bid cities Munich, South Korea's Pyeongchang and France's Annecy made their first official pitches at a meeting of Olympic associations on Thursday.
Two-time Olympic figure skating champion Katarina Witt fronted Munich's bid, highlighting the modern transportation system. Annecy followed, pledging a compact bid and featuring a video message of support from France first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy. Last up, Pyeongchang promised to create a new market for winter sports among a billion Asians.
Pyeongchang was considered an early favorite to stage the Games after unsuccessful bids for the last two Winter Olympics.
Despite losing to Vancouver for the 2010 Games and Sochi, Russia, in the 2014 vote, the expertise gained by the South Korean team was expected to be an advantage.
Munich's bid was hampered by Bavarian farmers unhappy about giving up land to be used during the Games, though organizers claimed that problem was under control.
Witt, who chairs the Munich team, announced at the Acapulco meeting that the bid's official slogan was "Festival of Friendship."
"It's our dream to welcome you to Munich 2018, into a world that celebrates winter sports very passionately," she said during the presentation. "Our goal is to create a festival of friendship for the Winter Games that sparks as much magic outside the stadium as it does on the field of play."
Munich's bid featured a video message of support from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who said the Games would offer "an unforgettably wonderful experience."
After the presentations, Witt told The Associated Press that the problem with landowners had been solved by making the Olympic village slightly smaller but said the complex would still have as much space for athletes as they had at this year's Vancouver Games.
"I'm really excited that we had the first presentation here today because, after talking about it for so many months, we finally had a chance to see and prove with the pictures and the film what our assets are," she said.
Witt said a "really good negotiation" had taken place with the farmers about using less space and returning the ground in the state it was found.
"You will never have a 100 percent agreement, there will always be people with a different point of view, but it's important to discuss and talk things through," she said. "We are bidding for the Olympics -- everybody should be for that."
Bruni-Sarkozy, a former model, lent a touch of glamor to the Annecy bid.
Sitting in an armchair and wearing a light blue, low-cut V-neck blouse, Bruni-Sarkozy confirmed the French government's backing in a short video and said it would be an "honor" to stage the Games.
Jean-Pierre Vidal, the 2002 Olympic slalom champion backing Annecy, told the AP that early criticism about venues being too far apart had been overcome.
"This is now a very compact bid," Vidal said. "Previous Games often go to big cities, but sometimes in a big city it is difficult to get a strong atmosphere.
"In Annecy everybody will be in the same place and the excitement will be easy to produce," Vidal said.
The French bid includes events in the small city of Annecy and the Alpine resort of Chamonix, near Mont Blanc.
"If we are just talking about the games as an experience for athletes and spectators this is a very strong bid," Vidal said.
Besides Vidal, Annecy's bid was chaired by 1992 mogul skiing champ Edgar Grospiron, with 2006 downhill gold medalist Antoine Deneriaz also on the team.
"We have all competed in different Olympics and we are working with the technical team to tell them what is good and what is not so good about the plans right from the beginning," Vidal said.
Grospiron said the Annecy proposal offered a "unique mountain experience" and also focused on the revised bid's "compactness" during the presentation, which uses the motto, "Snow, Ice and You".
Cho Yang-ho, the chief executive of Korean Air who is leading Pyeongchang's bid, said South Korean organizers had learned from their previous unsuccessful bids.
"Our will to host the Games has grown stronger," he said, introducing the "New Horizons" slogan.
In an apparent nod to the Olympic ideals of peace and friendship, slides for the Pyeongchang presentation referred to the country as "Korea", rather than "South Korea" or "Republic of Korea".
South Korea is still technically at war with neighboring North Korea, and despite sporadic attempts to reconcile the countries, the current relationship is still frosty.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press