UPDATE 1-Olympics-S.Korea expects huge economic boost from Winter Games

Thu Jul 7, 2011 2:07am EDT

(Adds Unification Minister, more quotes)

By Jeremy Laurence

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea, July 7 (Reuters) - Shares in South Korean casino and resort operators and construction firms spiked on Thursday, buoyed by expectations that Pyeongchang's hosting of the 2018 Winter Olympics could pump tens of billions of dollars into the economy.

At an International Olympic Committee meeting, South Korea won the right to host the contest at the third attempt, capping a decade-long campaign to bring winter sports to this rustic town, and sparking all-night celebrations.

A study by the Hyundai Research Institute has said hosting the 2018 Games will inject 65 trillion won ($61 billion) into Asia's fourth largest economy through investment, spending, and spin-off consumption.

On the Seoul stock exchange, Seunghwa Premium Construction Co surged to its daily limit of 15 percent on expectations the builder might be involving in the construction of a highway to Pyeongchang.

Hyundai Cement , which owns a resort in Gangwon Province, home to Pyeongchang, also surged 15 percent, while shares in casino operator Kangwon Land jumped as much as 9.5 percent.

The winning bid was a coup for Korea Inc. as major conglomerates threw their support behind the bid, which was headed by Cho Yang-ho, chairman of flag carrier Korean Air Lines 003490.Ks. Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee is the country's sole IOC member.

Japan is the only Asian country to host a Winter Olympics -- in Sapporo in 1972 and Nagano in 1998.

Pyeongchang ran under the slogan "New Horizons", arguing Asia's stellar economic growth in recent decades and the continent's massive population offered an untapped market for winter sports.

South Korea also hopes the event will serve as a catalyst for improved ties for rival Koreas, which stand at war technically under a truce that ended their 1950-53 conflict and have engaged in confrontations that have made tension on the peninsula a constant backdrop to economic development.

"This is a day for both South and North Korea," Unification Minister Hyun In-taek said at a former military training ground in Hwacheon, about 30 minutes drive from the North Korean border at a groundbreaking ceremony for a new centre for defectors, whose numbers have swelled in the South.

For many local residents, the Games come as a chance to breathe life into their sleepy town and help portraying a better image for their country as a place of skilled bureaucracy and business opportunities.

"I think this will help Korea's brand name," said Kim Young-soo, 39, who runs a lubricants shop in the nearby town of Chuncheon. "Korea has been seen as a more difficult place to do business than other developed countries."

Kim was among the nearly 1,000 local residents and visitors who gathered around the Alpensia resort, one of the planned venues for the 2018 Games, dancing to a K-pop boy band and enjoying Korean folk dance and songs before the decision.

Robed monks and hundreds of soldiers in fatigue were among the throng of patriotic supporters waving the flag and "clapper" balloons popular at South Korean sports events, emblazoned with the bid's logo "New Horizons."

South Korea hosted the Summer Games in 1988 and the World Cup soccer finals together with Japan in 2002.

($1 = 1065.950 Korean Won) (Additional reporting by Hyunjoo Jin and Ju-min Park in Seoul and Seongbin Kang in Hwacheon; Writing by Jack Kim; Editing by Daniel Magnowski)

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