Figure skater Yu-na to help Korean Olympic bid

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — South Korean figure skating gold medalist Kim Yu-na could play a key role in the chase for another top Olympic prize.

Bid leaders from Pyeongchang, South Korea, said Wednesday that Kim will lend her support to the city's campaign to host the 2018 Winter Games.

"She has promised me she will come to events to promote the bid," said Cho Yang-ho, co-chair of the bid and head of Korean Air.

Cho said he expects Kim — who won the gold in Vancouver at the age of 19 — to travel to Durban, South Africa, as part of the bid team for the vote by the International Olympic Committee in July 2011.

That would put two figure skating gold medalists in the spotlight: Two-time champion Katarina Witt is a top leader of Munich's 2018 bid. The third candidate city is Annecy, France.

Leaders of all three bids have come to Dubai to spread their message at the SportAccord convention, a major gathering of sports and Olympic officials from around the world.

The race won't move into high gear until June when the International Olympic Committee officially approves the list of finalist candidates.

For now, the bid cities are limited to meeting and greeting IOC members and pushing their case through media interviews.

Pyeongchang is making its third consecutive bid after narrow defeats in the votes for the 2010 and 2014 Games.

"It's not like the Olympic movement owes something to Pyeongchang," said Kim Jin-sun, governor of Gangwong province and co-chair of the bid. "But we feel it is very important for the Olympic movement to give Asia the opportunity to host the Games."

Pyeongchang officials said their bid has been boosted by South Korea's strong performance in Vancouver, where the country's athletes placed fifth in the medals table with six golds and 14 in total.

Willy Bogner, a former Olympic skier and movie maker who heads Munich's bid, said he does not feel disadvantaged by Pyeongchang's head start as a third-time candidate.

"It is like a race," he said. "You have more experienced people and you have newer people. Ours is a fresh bid."

Munich, which hosted the 1972 Summer Olympics, is seeking to become the first city to stage both winter and summer games.

Bogner said Munich's 1972 Olympic Stadium remains a great legacy and the Olympic Park is "a living thing" which hosts around 300 events a year, meaning the city won't have to build many new costly facilities.

While the Annecy bid, led by former Olympic moguls champion Edgar Grospiron, is considered the outsider, Bogner said the French should not be counted out.

"You can never underestimate a competitor," he said. "I wouldn't call it a two-horse race. France has a strong Olympic connection, and the French are good politicians."

Beyond 2018, some cities are exploring bids for the 2020 Summer Olympics — including Dubai.

Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and his wife, Princess Haya of Jordan, spoke with reporters Wednesday and acknowledged that the searing heat could be an issue in a city where temperatures can exceed 120 degrees.

Another Gulf city — Doha, Qatar — failed to make the list of finalists for the 2016 Games, mainly because of the heat during the traditional Olympic months of July and August.

Mohammed reiterated that Dubai was carrying out a feasibility study about a potential bid.

"We have to do our homework," he said. "A bid is not organized yet. My people are studying this."

The Olympics have never been held in the Middle East.

"Really, it would be a dream to have the Olympic Games in this part of the world," the sheik said.