Pyeongchang: South Korea’s Winter Olympics head organiser has appealed to the nuclear-armed North, which remains technically at war with his country and boycotted the 1988 Seoul Games, to join in a “peace” Olympics next year.
Lee Hee-beom is president and CEO of the Pyeongchang Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, which will take place in a province that saw fierce battles during the 1950-1953 Korean War.
The conflict ended with an armistice rather than a peace treaty, but Lee urged the North to send its athletes to the Games, which open a year from today.
The “spirit” of the Olympics was peace, he said, citing the traditional suspension of wars in Greece where the Games originated in 776 BC.
The Olympics have been the scene of moments of reconciliation between the bitter foes – the teams entered the opening ceremonies for several Games in the 2000s marching under a unified flag, and when two gymnasts from North and South posed together for a selfie at Rio 2016 it was praised as embodying the Olympic spirit.
But last year Pyongyang also carried out two atomic tests and multiple missile launches, issued a series of threats, and was subjected to enhanced UN sanctions.
Ahead of the Seoul Olympics, Pyongyang demanded to co-host the Games but was rebuffed and ultimately stayed away, joined by Cuba, Ethiopia and Nicaragua.
It also sought to host some of next year’s events, but IOC and South Korean officials have poured cold water on the concept.
While Lee says he is open to the idea in principle, it would have to be “acceptable technically” – an unlikely prospect given the distances and timings involved. — AFP
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