By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, June 11 (Yonhap) -- Seoul's drive for co-hosting the 2032 Summer Olympics with Pyongyang has come to an end, following a decision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to name an Australian city as the only candidate up for a member vote next month.
Following its Executive Board meeting on Thursday (local time), the IOC said the fate of Brisbane as the host of the 2032 Olympics will be "in the hands" of its members. In what's expected to be a mere formality, those members will vote on Brisbane's candidacy at the IOC Session on July 21 in Tokyo.
The right to host the competition became Brisbane's to lose in February, when the IOC first put it on the fast track as the preferred candidate without any rival.
Seoul and Pyongyang, the capital cities of South Korea and North Korea, respectively, first declared their intention to work together to co-host the 2032 Olympics in September 2018. South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un made that announcement in a joint accord following their summit talks in Pyongyang.
In February 2019, representatives from the two Koreas traveled to the IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, to formally express their interest to IOC President Thomas Bach. Bach said he welcomed the joint Korean bid and called it an "historic initiative."
There had been little real progress in the intervening years amid the usual ebbs and flows in the inter-Korean relations, although South Korean Olympic officials have touted the case for a joint bid at every chance they had.
After Brisbane was named the preferred candidate, Seoul's metropolitan government still clung to fading hope, and sent a letter to the IOC to further push the case for co-hosting of the 2032 Olympics with Pyongyang. Seoul officials said the IOC caught Seoul and other potential candidates off guard with its surprise announcement and asked the IOC to continue to hold dialogues with cities other than Brisbane.
No Olympic Games, winter or summer, have been co-hosted by two countries.
Co-hosting the Olympics would have been the culmination of inter-Korean sports cooperation. After years of chilly relations, the two Koreas made significant progress on the sporting front in 2018, which included assembling a joint women's hockey team at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea and winning multiple medals under one Korean flag at the Asian Games in Indonesia.
The IOC used to name Olympic host cities seven years in advance, following a two-year bidding race that often proved expensive for candidate cities. Under a reformed procedure designed to ensure more transparency and efficiency, the IOC established the Future Host Commission, which screens potential host cities and makes a recommendation to the Executive Board for a preferred candidate.
The IOC then works with the prospective host to develop its chances of holding a successful Olympic Games and then brings the bid forward for an up-or-down vote by IOC members.
In addition to the Koreas, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Qatar, Germany and China had also expressed interest in the 2032 Olympics, the next available Summer Games.