DURBAN, July 6 (Reuters) - The landslide victory by South Korea's Pyeongchang in the race to host the 2018 winter Olympics was thanks to a sympathy vote, dejected bidders Munich said after losing out on Wednesday.
Pyeongchang, which had narrowly lost out on the 2010 and 2014 editions, won the International Olympic Committee (IOC) election by a huge margin, picking up 63 votes with Munich managing 25 and France's Annecy just seven.
"We know that in sport winning is not everything and that defeat does not spell the end," said IOC Vice President Thomas Bach, a German who was one of Munich's bid leaders.
"But obviously we are very disappointed. It seems that the sympathy effect for the Korean proposal played its role."
Munich was considered a frontrunner along with Pyeongchang but the 38-vote difference showed IOC members had overwhelmingly opted for Pyeongchang's third successive bid.
"The margin of defeat does not really mean anything because there is no silver medal in this race," Bach told reporters.
A tearful Munich bid chief Katarina Witt, the twice Olympic figure skating champion, was briefly ushered away after the announcement before returning to say she was stunned by the result.
"At the moment I am at a loss for words," Witt told reporters. "Obviously we are bitterly disappointed but the decision seems to have been taken before our good presentation today and we could just not turn it around."
In Munich thousands of people who had gathered at the central Marienplatz square to witness what they hoped would be a result that would make the Bavarian capital the only city to host summer and winter Games left empty-handed.
"It's a shame, but we should be sporting about it and make a new bid next time," said Ludwig Spaenle, the Bavarian minister of education.
Bach ruled out any quick decisions on a future bid.
"The next (winter Games) vote is in four years," he said. "We will look at it carefully and analyse things but it is not something we are talking about at the moment." (Additional reporting by Jens Hack and Andreas Kroener in Munich; Writing by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Sonia Oxley; To query or comment on this story email email@example.com)
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