David Miller

Where is the joy?


LAUSANNE, Switzerland — To use a favorite saying of Thomas Bach's, the International Olympic Committee president, the IOC’s policy-making executive board and Bach himself did a great job -- over three days of meetings that wrapped up Thursday -- of talking the talk.

Amid corruption and doping scandals in, respectively, soccer and track and field, the IOC board and president talked up the import of maintaining — if not restoring — the credibility of international sport.

IOC president Thomas Bach at this week's executive board meetings // photo IOC

There was celebration of the one-year anniversary of the ratification of Bach’s would-be reform plan, the 40-point Agenda 2020. The executive board heard at length from one of the world's prominent business professors, Didier Cossin, based at the Swiss institution IMD; he talked for nearly two hours about best practices and good governance. Bach himself wrote a newspaper-style op-ed that, without once mentioning the soccer and track governing bodies FIFA and the IAAF, described campaigns against the three primary challenges confronting world sport: betting and match fixing, doping and, finally, bribery and other corruption.

The board in session // photo IOC

The executive board at this week's get-together // photo IOC

All this is, to be sure, excellent talk.

But it totally, completely and fundamentally misses the point about why the IOC is being lumped in — right or wrong, fair or not — with FIFA and the IAAF in the minds of many around our globe, and why world sport, and in particular the Olympic movement, is facing a perhaps unexpected but potentially unprecedented challenge.

For 57 years, British writer David Miller has been covering the Olympic movement. Just before Thursday's wrap-up news conference, the IOC handed out a release that in print ran to three pages; it broke little new ground, if any, amid a lengthy recitation of governance and doping matters. Miller: "It's like a notice from the water board about drainage."

To be blunt: where is the joy?

Increasingly, voters and taxpayers in western democracies have turned against the IOC. Alone in the world of sport, it boasts as its raison d'être a message of tolerance, pluralism and more. But the IOC is failing, time and again, at conveying the inspiration and joy inherent in and provoked by seeing humankind, together, gathered in a real-time reminder of what can connect — not divide — us.

The latest: Hamburg’s bid for the 2024 Summer Games shot down on the last Sunday in November in a referendum.

This comes after the turbulent 2022 Winter Games campaign, which saw Beijing elected over Almaty, Kazakhstan, the only two survivors, after six European entries pulled out: Oslo; Stockholm; Davos/St. Moritz; Krakow; Munich; Lviv.

Beijing! Where the authorities this week had to issue a red-alert smog warning, photos showing the famed Bird’s Nest barely visible in the grey air. This after assurances that the 2008 Summer Games were going to make major headway in solving China’s pollution problem.

The grim view through the smog this week of the iconic Bird's Nest at Beijing's Olympic Park // Getty Images

Four cities remain in the 2024 hunt: Los Angeles, Rome, Budapest and Paris, in the order in which they will present going forward, according to lots drawn Wednesday at the lakefront Chateau de Vidy, the IOC headquarters.

That is, assuming all four make it to the IOC vote in the summer of 2017. There are no guarantees.

The problem, to be clear, is fear of Games costs and wariness — if not more — with the IOC, and the perception, again right or wrong, fair or not, of the IOC members as elitists and the IOC itself at the head of a system that seems rife with misconduct.

The prompt may be the $51-billion figure associated with the 2014 Sochi Games. It might be the revelations of a culture of deep-seated corruption within FIFA. It is perhaps the spotlight on state-sponsored doping in Russia, with the seeming promise of yet more inquiry into the term of the immediate IAAF past president, Lamine Diack of Senegal, due to be made public in just weeks.

It’s time now for the IOC, again referring to Bach’s dictum, to walk the walk.

It needs not only to recognize but to act upon this fundamental truth:

The conversation needs to move away from money.

It’s that simple and, at the same time, that complex.

The IOC is in business, sure. But it is not, repeat not, fundamentally a business. It is not pushing baby food, chocolate and more like Nestlé; headquartered just down Lake Geneva in Vevey, Switzerland. It is not a bank like UBS, based in Zurich and Basel.

Instead, the IOC is in the business of promoting a set of values — friendship, respect, excellence, all of which add up to hope and dreams — and a universal ideal, the notion of a better world through sport.

What is missing right now, and has been, as evidenced by the 2022 pull-outs and the 2024 Hamburg defeat amid the promotion and implementation of the Agenda 2020 plan, is any real and sustained focus from the IOC in its communication on the basics:

Friendship. Excellence. Respect. Hope and dreams.

For any who might doubt, Bach is super-smart and -sophisticated. He is good at both broad scope and detail. He is an accomplished public speaker, and in English, a second language.

In his op-ed, he closed this way:

“As Nelson Mandela said: ‘Sport has the power to change the world.’ Yes, these are difficult times for sport. But yes, it is also an opportunity to renew the trust in this power of sport to change the world for the better.”

How? Not once in his opinion piece did the words “values” come up. Nor, in that context, supposedly at the heart of everything the IOC does, did “respect,” “friendship,” “excellence,” “hope” or “dreams.”

Thursday's three-page news release? Same. Not a mention in the relevant context.

You wonder why there’s a disconnect?

As the longtime Olympic bid strategist Terrence Burns outlined in a post Wednesday to his blog:

“Not enough people in Hamburg were sufficiently inspired by the Olympic brand.”

He continued:

“To me, the Olympic brand is and has always been about hope. The stated vision of the Olympic movement is ‘building a better world through sport.’ I’ll buy that. But what is the emotional payoff? What is the IOC’s singularly unique promise that no other brand can deliver?

“Again, I think it is hope. Hope inspires human beings to dream with no limitations.

“Hope is the emotional output of the Olympic brand. The Games, and more importantly the athletes, give us hope that something better resides deep inside of us and, if only for 17 days every four years, we are capable of undeniable grace. Nothing other than perhaps theology offers humankind a similar promise through the demonstration of human achievement.

“I am under no illusion that the IOC will suddenly revisit its core values in favor of the word ‘hope.’ What I am suggesting is that by ignoring the concept of hope, we are missing something powerful that is needed right now.”

To be clear, the IOC also cannot and should not adopt the position that it is above the discussion of the funds needed to stage a 21st-century Olympics.

It can and should do a better job of explaining the basic difference between an operating budget on the one hand and, on the other, whatever costs are associated with construction or infrastructure. The latter traditionally is the source of significant cost overrun.

That explanation is simply not that difficult.

According to figures made public Wednesday, the Tokyo 2020 plan is now credited with $2.9 billion in venue-related cost savings, purportedly due to Agenda 2020. It's worth asking: why were the members were so gung-ho for Tokyo in the first instance when, by contrast, rival Madrid’s entire capital budget for 2020 totaled $1.9 billion?

The Rio 2016 budget is now under intense pressure, organizers looking to cut some $530 million from the operating budget of roughly $1.9 billion, about 30 percent. Brazil is confronting a slew of challenges: financial (the country is in its worst recession in 80 years), political (president Dilma Rousseff is facing impeachment proceedings) and more (a kickback scandal centered on the energy giant Petrobas).

Bach said Thursday, referring to Rio 2016, "We are sure history will talk ... like history talks about Barcelona '92 in this respect," one of the greatest of Summer Games. At the same time, he said about Rio, "We know the situation there is not easy."

To paraphrase David Byrne and the Talking Heads: how did we get here?

This question is hardly unreasonable.

Nor -- let's be clear -- is any financially related inquiry in and around the Games.

The problem, big picture, is that the money discussion has all but hijacked any other discussion — in particular, the good the movement can and does do and the benefits that can come with staging an edition of the Olympics.

When Boston went out earlier this year, it was all because, purportedly, the mayor didn’t want to sign the host city contract, citing the worry of cost overruns. This after a vocal “no” campaign from locals worried about, again, the risk and reward of the “value proposition” that might or might not have been a Boston 2024 Games.

Los Angeles has since replaced Boston as the U.S. Olympic Committee’s candidate; in Southern California, the locals remember the glow of the 1984 Games, and polling indicates huge support for 2024.

For emphasis: this is by no means a USOC, or an American, problem.

It’s way bigger than that. 

After Boston went out, the American television show NewsHour on PBS, the public television channel, hosted a debate between vocal Games critic Andrew Zimbalist and George Hirthler. Zimbalist is a Smith College professor. Hirthler is a longtime Olympic bid strategist, an unapologetic idealist for the movement and the author of a forthcoming novel on the life and times of the French Baron Pierre de Coubertin, widely acknowledged as the founder of the modern movement.

Zimbalist, left, and Hirthler, right, on PBS NewsHour // screenshot


“There’s a better story, and it’s the story of the Olympic movement and its value to our world. You never hear about it in the economic financial risk stories of the opponents of the Games.

“Right now the Olympic movement is at work in 200 countries around the world, 365 days a year instilling the values of excellence, friendship and respect — respect for opponents, other cultures, differences — in young children, millions of young children around the world. In our world, we need a positive force like that at work around the world.

“They invest — the Olympic movement invests $1-billion every year in the development of sport around the world. That money flows directly from the sponsorships and broadcast rights that are sold for the cities that are hosting the games. So the IOC draws money from these host cities in order to develop sport globally. I’d like to know what the value of the development of sport, giving kids a chance to choose sport everywhere — what’s the value of that economic development?”

Zimbalist, in response:

“Look, the Olympic movement is a good thing. Olympic values is a good thing. Nobody is contesting that.

“The issue that we were talking about is whether it makes economic sense for cities to host the Olympic Games, whether it pays off for them to do that.”

How hard would it be for the IOC to gin up a road show featuring the president, Games executive director Christophe Dubi, some IOC members (to show doubters that, indeed, they can be supremely normal) and, most important, key athletes?

Who wouldn’t want to be listened to and feel inspired by the likes of — just riffing here — Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, whoever in whatever country?

Is there anyone who doesn’t like a Bud Greenspan movie? Bring the popcorn and the tissues.

In an email exchange this week, Hirthler said, “You can't win the economic argument because the opposition isn't rational -- you have to make the argument about why our world needs the Olympic movement -- why the Games hold more hope and promise for humanity than any other international institution.

“And that has everything to do with the grass-roots work of the IOC and global sport, which is the foundation of Coubertin's vision of uniting all humanity in friendship and peace through sport.”

The legacy of China's He Zhenliang


The Olympic movement is all about changing the world. Very few people actually effect such change. Everything you see now that reflects China the important player on the world sports stage — all of that is, in some piece big or small, the work of He Zhenliang, a former International Olympic Committee vice president who died Sunday at age 85. Mr. He, as it seemed everyone in Olympic circles called him, was a remarkable man. He was not only the bridgehead, as David Miller pointed out Monday in the Olympic newsletter Sport Intern, but then the bridge between China and the world outside. There have been tributes, and appropriately, from around the world. Yet those tributes have missed, or glossed over, the tribulations and complexities that helped shape Mr. He.

And without those it is impossible to fully appreciate not only his story but China’s ongoing story in the Olympic movement and our world, which is entirely appropriate as the Beijing bid committee prepares Tuesday to lodge its 2022 Winter Games file with the IOC.

He Zhenliang, the former IOC vice president, in 2008 // Getty Images

There are only two 2022 candidates: Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan. If Beijing wins, it would be the first city to stage both the Summer and Winter Games.

Mr. He would doubtlessly find that amazing.

To be honest, everyone ought to find that amazing.

The modern Olympic movement has been around since 1894. The People’s Republic of China, since 1949. The team that we call China — as a point of contrast to the team from “Chinese Taipei,” and by reference this is not intended to be a political discourse — has been back in the Summer Games only since 1984, the Winter Games since 1980.

The IOC president, Thomas Bach, said in a statement issued Monday, “Mr. He was a man of culture and art. He was a true advocate of the social values of sport and of our movement and I would like to pay tribute to the passion and energy he deployed over the years to fulfill his mission as an IOC member in China. He also helped our movement better understand his country, its people and outstanding culture. The Olympic movement has lost one of its most fervent ambassadors.

“For me personally, he showed me true friendship and gave me invaluable advice from very early days as an IOC member. I will always remember this with great gratitude.”

Wei Jizhong, a former secretary general of the Chinese Olympic Committee, told China Daily, “China’s current major-member status in the IOC is inseparable from He’s hard work for decades. His strong enthusiasm and responsibility to China’s sports development as well as improvement of its international image truly impressed me.”

Added Yang Yang, the short-track speed skating star who is now an IOC member, “His fruitful work in the IOC earned a positive impression from the world about Chinese sports, which inspired me and guided me to continue my work as a sports official.”

There will doubtlessly be smiles for the camera Tuesday at the Chateau de Vidy, the IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland.

That’s appropriate.

Mr. He knew great happiness on the Olympic stage. He played a key role in Beijing's win — at the IOC session in Moscow — for the 2008 Summer Games.

He knew disappointment as well. In 1993 — at the IOC session in Monaco — Sydney defeated Beijing for the 2000 Games, literally by a couple votes. Wei said Mr. He wept privately.

Just imagine, though, and it is difficult now, all these years later, having seen the bang of the 2,008 drums in the 2008 opening ceremony, to have seen Michael Phelps go 8-for-8 in the pool at the Water Cube, to have seen Usain Bolt set world records on the track at the Bird’s Nest — imagine what must have been going through Mr. He’s mind.

Mr. He had been exiled to the Chinese countryside during the Cultural Revolution. He literally did hard labor.

During those years, which saw ping-pong diplomacy, the authorities would sometimes call him in from the countryside. Why? Because he spoke French and English, and knew not just how to translate but, even more important, how to conduct himself with the people from overseas. When the foreigners would leave, Mr. He was sent back to the countryside, there to await a next round of ping-pong and artful finesse.

Mr. He had come from Shanghai, and the French Concession there. He earned a degree from Aurora University in Shanghai in electric mechanics in 1950, the year after the revolution. In 1952, he was part of the formal mainland Chinese delegation to the Helsinki Summer Games; to reiterate, there would not be another team from “China” at the Summer Olympics until Los Angeles in 1984.

In the mid-1950s, Mr. He was an international communications official in what was then the National Sports Commission. In the 1960s, he was a senior official for organizations such as the Chinese gymnastics and table tennis federations.

Then, though, came the Cultural Revolution.

“Along with his colleagues [at the sports commission], he was doing hard labor,” said Susan Brownell, a professor at the University of Missouri at St. Louis who is not only an authority on China and the Olympics but translated into English the story of Mr. He’s life, “He Zheliang and China’s Olympic Dream.”

The book is written by Mr. He’s wife, Liang Lijuan, and Brownell said of the years when Mr. He was in exile, “He would see his wife and children for a short time and then disappear again,” adding, “His partnership with his wife is inspiring, just a really great story of loyalty.”

In 1979, Mr. He was made deputy secretary general of the Chinese Olympic committee; in 1982, its secretary general.

That, though, was not his real break.

That came in 1981, when then-IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch worked it so that Mr. He became an IOC member.

This had two results.

One, it helped to significantly advance China’s cause within the IOC. Three years later, in Los Angeles, there was China back at the Summer Games. The next few bid cycles would see it emerging as a serious contender, and then a winner, for the Summer Games — with the bang of those 2,008 drums, it has been said, perhaps signaling the onset of the Chinese century.

Two, Mr. He’s IOC membership gave him a standing within China that would help him navigate any number of shifting domestic political currents. In 1981, Mr. He was still in his early 50s; he would be an IOC member until 2010, which Samaranch and others in the IOC hierarchy knew full well.

Mr. He would serve 16 years on the IOC’s policy-making executive board, four as a vice president.

Even as China increasingly engages with the world, there remains — and sometimes at the highest levels of government — a lingering xenophobia, or as Brownell put it, “a distrust of people seen to be too internationalized, or not Chinese enough.”

She said, “It was really interesting to watch him move among IOC members. The first time I had dinner with him, in 2000, I was watching him converse in French with his IOC colleagues, managing conversation and pouring out wine, and I was thinking I had never seen a mainland Chinese do that.

"He could also manage western facial expressions. I had never met anybody like that — never met anybody who could move in both worlds.”

The last time she had dinner with Mr. He and Ms. Liang was in 2012. “After that time,” Brownell said, “I knew I would never see him again. Sure enough, that was the last time.”

She said, giving voice to an emotion felt by many within the Olympic movement, “I really admired him. He was a really inspiring and admirable person,” a man whose work and legacy will live on, in China and well beyond — perhaps to 2022, perhaps far, far longer.

The Oslo 2022 conundrum

The International Olympic Committee finds itself early this week in Oslo in a conundrum of its own making. On the one hand, it is assuredly the IOC’s responsibility to encourage strong bids to come forward. Thus Oslo 2022. On the other, in politics – even, perhaps especially, sports politics – perceptions can matter as much as reality. Thus, again, Oslo 2022.

A high-powered IOC delegation, led by the president himself, Thomas Bach, visits Norway Monday and Tuesday for a series of meetings revolving primarily – there are other sessions – around preparations for the 2016 Winter Youth Games in Lillehammer.

Norway's Anette Sagen during a 2013 FIS World Cup ski jump event at the famed Holmenkollen venue // photo Getty Images

The timing comes at a fraught juncture for the Oslo 2022 bid, which all involved are keenly aware.

Thus the dilemma:

Is this good for the IOC? For Oslo 2022? Or, owing to layers of complexities, is this trip ultimately not likely to prove helpful for an Oslo 2022 campaign?

To set the stage:

The IOC agreed to these series of meetings in Norway weeks if not months ago.

As the longtime Olympic British journalist David Miller spelled out in the newsletter Sport Intern in a column published Saturday, the two-day itinerary begins Monday with meetings at the Olympic Sports Center and the Norwegian School of Sports Science.

The IOC president is due thereafter to take lunch with Norway’s King Harald at the Royal Castle along with Norway IOC member, Gerhard Heiberg. After that, Miller reports, the IOC delegation – which includes the likes of senior IOC member Ser Miang Ng, who is the new finance commission chair as well as Singapore’s ambassador to Norway for many years, and Angela Ruggiero, chair of the Lillehammer 2016 coordination commission – is due to “exchange ideas” with Norway’s culture minister, Thorhild Wedvey, and Oslo’s mayor, Stian Berger Rosland.

More meetings Monday are due to follow, with three NGOs, with four labor groups and, finally, with members of parliament.

On Tuesday, the scene shifts to Lillehammer itself, Miller reports, for a series of meetings, including with Ottavio Cinquanta (head of the skating federation), Rene Fasel (hockey federation chief) and Gian-Franco Kasper (ski and snowboard federation No. 1).

Also due to be on-hand from the IOC side, according to Miller: the outgoing Olympic Games executive director, Gilbert Felli, and the IOC director general, Christophe de Kepper.


Assuming, indeed, that everyone shows up -- that is some serious IOC star power.

A bit more background:

There are five applicant cities in the 2022 bid race: Oslo; Almaty, Kazakhstan; Beijing; Lviv, Ukraine; and Krakow, Poland.

It’s not clear Krakow will make it past a May 25 referendum.

Lviv, of course, is struggling with enormous turbulence in the eastern part of the country. The IOC last week gave Ukraine’s national Olympic committee $300,000 just so its athletes could make it to training camps and meets this year.

The IOC’s policy-making executive board is due in early July to decide which of the five “applicants” will become “candidate” finalists. The IOC will pick the 2022 winner in July, 2015.

Almaty and Beijing would seem to be shoo-ins. They are both, of course, from Asia.

So who is going to make it from Europe?

It’s not exactly a secret that Norwegians love winter sports, indeed the Winter Games. The 1994 Lillehammer Games are often cited as the “best-ever.” Norway leads the overall Winter Games medal count, with 329, and the gold count, too, with 118 (the U.S. is second in both categories, 282 and 96).

The athlete who has won the most Winter Games medals? Biathlon king Ole Einar Bjorndalen of Norway, the new IOC member, with 13. He won two gold medals in Sochi in February -- just a couple weeks after turning 40.

Next? Cross-country ski god Bjorn Daehlie of Norway, with 12, eight gold.

Next, three athletes, one of whom is female Norwegian cross-country ski legend Marit Bjorgen, with 10 Olympic medals, six gold. In Sochi, age 33, she won three gold medals, among them the grueling 30-kilometer event.

Look, any Oslo bid for the Games would understandably be taken very seriously. For obvious reasons.

Two weeks ago, however, one of two Norwegian government parties voted against supporting Oslo’s 2022 bid. At issue now is whether the government will offer the needed financial guarantees.

The imperative – at least for now – is that the IOC would seem to need Oslo for the 2022 race more than Oslo needs the Winter Games. That is the box. And everyone in Olympic circles knows it.

At the same time, while Norwegians may love the Winter Games, it’s pretty clear there are some strong feelings about the bid, and they may be directly tied to the IOC. And those feelings may not be so positive.

A new poll conducted by the research firm Norstat for NRK, the Norwegian Broadcast Corporation, suggests that 60 percent of the Norwegian public is against an Oslo 2022 bid – with only 35 percent in favor.

“No, it is a considerable skepticism, and I think a lot of the information that has been around the IOC has increased that skepticism,” Christian Democratic Party leader Knut Arild Hareide said.

Bach has been in office for about nine months. He has shown an inclination to lead in a style that evokes some of the ways of Juan Antonio Samaranch, the IOC president from 1980-2001, who understood – appropriately – that the IOC is not just a sports institution but one that moves with nation-states and with influential political leaders.

Thus, for instance, the lunch with the Norwegian king as well as the exchanges with, for instance, the culture minister.

Too, Bach is possessed – this is meant to be a compliment – of first-rate confidence. You have to have such confidence to direct the IOC, a global institution with a multibillion-dollar budget. By definition, the position lends itself to high-pressure decision making. Bach took a decision to have this two-day meeting, and it is on.

He is also riding a wave of can-do. Sochi is in the rear-view mirror. The IOC and NBC just struck a $7.75 billion deal through 2032.

Even so, does the IOC president himself need to assess what’s going on in Lillehammer with regard to the 2016 Youth Games, when those Games are nearly two years away -- Feb. 12-21, 2016 -- and, besides, it’s well-known the Youth Games are way down the IOC priority list?

For this purpose, doesn’t he already have a coordination commission? And the chair of that commission is, you know, in Norway for this trip?

If this trip were just about Lillehammer, why meet with the mayor of Oslo?

It is also the case that the Norwegians doubtlessly would have some interesting – perhaps even some constructively provocative – ideas to offer regarding Olympic Agenda 2020, the far-reaching IOC study program the IOC president has launched that is now working its way toward the all-members session in Monaco in December. That would explain the sessions with the NGOs and the other Monday afternoon meetings, for instance.

But are the Norwegians the only ones in the entire world with suggestions so potentially clever that the president has to hear them in person?

And, this, coincidentally enough, before the July meeting at which the 2022 applicants are going to be passed through?

Earlier this year – the deadline was April 15 – the IOC took email submissions from anyone, anywhere who wanted to weigh in relating to Olympic Agenda 2020. Yet the Norwegians get an in-person audience with the IOC president himself?

Over the years, the IOC has gone to great – some would say extraordinary – lengths, particularly in the aftermath of the late 1990s Salt Lake City scandal, to keep its distance from anything that sniffed of even the hint of the appearance of conflict of interest in the bid cycle.

For instance, the IOC would not entertain sponsorship discussions from the Russian concern Gazprom while Sochi was bidding for the 2014 Games. Similarly, when Doha was trying, it would not entertain an approach from Qatar Airways even between bid cycles.

No one has suggested misconduct or wrongdoing in the slightest by either the Norwegians or the IOC. To repeat: nobody has said anybody is doing anything wrong.

And nobody is likely to.

The only people who would be likely to complain would be rival bid teams, in this instance most likely Almaty or Beijing.

How do you think it is going to go over when they read that the IOC president is in Oslo, and before the July executive board pass-through meeting?

If you were them, how would you react?

In private?

Now – what would you do about it?


Isn’t this, too, the dilemma?


Pyeongchang 2018: taking Korea to the next level


SEOUL -- Amazing how time really does fly. It will be 25 years this summer that Seoul played host to the 1988 Summer Games. People like to talk about the Barcelona miracle, about how the 1992 Olympics made Barcelona the hot spot tourist destination it is now. And that's true enough. But four years before, those 1988 Games did something profoundly amazing. They made South Korea a modern nation.

Or -- more important -- they made everyone everywhere think South Korea was the modern nation it was becoming, and surely is today.

Here Wednesday, they signed a formal marketing agreement to help fund the first Winter Games to be staged in South Korea -- five years from now, in 2018, in the mountains south of Seoul, in a hamlet called Pyeongchang.

Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, signed the agreement with the head of the Pyeongchang 2018 organizing committee, Jin Sun Kim.

The signing of such an agreement marks the moment, as Rogge noted in his remarks at a downtown hotel, that local organizers "truly take ownership of their promotional and financial destiny."

And -- in this instance -- so much more.

Because for South Korea, these 2018 Games mean so much more.

Photographers crowd around as Korean Olympic Committee president Y.S. Park, IOC president Jacques Rogge and Pyeongchang 2018 president Jin Sun Kim ready for a ceremony marking the signing of the 2018 organizing committee's marketing plan agreement

The agreement itself, which Kim in his remarks called "critical and meaningful," is a common-sense notion. It gives the Pyeongchang 2018 committee exclusive Olympic marketing rights in South Korea until 2020; the committee takes those rights over from the Korean Olympic Committee.

For the KOC, it's a win-win. It gets $10 million a year for the next seven years, up from $6 million or so a year it's generating now in sponsorships.

Pyeongchang 2018 needs the rights to raise revenue to meet its $2.1 billion operating budget.

Wednesday's agreement sets a formidable target, about $1.1 billion. That's traditionally Summer Games-style revenue.

And that ambitious goal was put out there even as the world remains largely mired in an economic downturn not seen in decades.

Rogge, however, said the IOC is "confident" the Koreans have "everything in place" to be "highly successful in [their] endeavors."

For his part, Kim said, "Now let me take this opportunity to encourage the country's leading companies as well as promising small and medium-sized businesses to take part in the historic 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Games through its Olympic sponsorship program," adding a moment later that the committee, which goes by the acronym POCOG, is ready for "action."

Later, when speaking to a small group of reporters and asked whether now is indeed a good time to go to market, Kim said of the economic downturn, "Our analysis is that those conditions will get better."

Pyeongchang was elected in 2011 on its third try, coming up just shy for both 2014 and 2010. Kim served as governor of Gangwon province, where Pyeongchang is located, and was intimately involved with those first two bids; he was of course a familiar figure for the winning campaign, too. He has, among other responsibilities over his career, been a special Korean ambassador and a presidential advisor.

This nation recently held elections -- Geun Hye Park will take office Feb. 25, South Korea's first female president -- and Kim is heading up preparations for the inauguration, laughingly calling that -- still speaking through a translator -- a "second job."

This is a man who, for sure, knows how certain things get done, and that is absolutely a compliment.

This is a man who also, over the years, has learned considerably more English than many people might think he knows. Which is a great talent.

In his conversation late Wednesday afternoon with the small group of reporters, the respected British correspondent David Miller started to ask Kim about the impact of those 1988 Games.

Miller, launching into his question -- they had a "huge impact on Korea diplomatically, politically …"

At which point Kim interrupted, speaking in English: "… socially, culturally."

Miller, pausing to note the intriguing cut-in and then resuming: "What do you think will be the contribution of [the Pyeongchang 2018 Games] to the global perception of Korea outside the business of sport, to promote the global awareness of Korea?"

If there was ever someone ready to take that question, here was someone with context, perspective and background.

What these Games are not so much about, Kim made plain, was world peace. He didn't say this, because he is far too practiced and diplomatic, but here's the reality: the Pyeongchang bids that didn't win focused on peace on the Korean peninsula in our time -- and look at the outcome.

He did say at one point Wednesday, "We would like to send the message of peace to the international community … through sports and through the Games," adding, "We will work hard on realizing this vision." At the same time, he noted that right now, referring to the North, "There is no dialogue."

In part, the Games are of course about "new horizons," the winning 2018 tagline, the message of expanding winter sports throughout Asia.

But -- and again, so much more.

This marketing agreement was signed even as South Korea put a satellite into orbit Wednesday for the very first time. Ju Ho Lee, the country's minister for education, science and technology, appearing on a nationally broadcast news conference, and using the country's formal name, said with excitement and pride, "Students and youths! The Republic of Korea is expanding around the world and toward space!"

"As you said," Kim began, looking at Miller, speaking once more in Korean, "because of the 1988 Olympic Games, people around the world -- the international community -- came to know about Korea. The Games had a great impact on our society -- economically, politically and culturally. Altogether, it was a great opportunity to upgrade our nation.

"The 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Games will be held 30 years after the Seoul Olympic Games. I believe for the nation of Korea that will mean the completion of the Olympic process."

He added a moment later, "Coming in 2018, I believe and I hope that South Korea will enter the [world's] advanced economies. I believe Pyeongchang 2018 will be a symbolic event for Korea to be taken to the next level once again in the manner of the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games."