The diplo­matic back­drop will be as chal­leng­ing as the games

The Weekend Australian - - THE NATION -

While the Olympic move­ment has long recog­nised the con­tri­bu­tion of sport in pro­mot­ing peace between na­tions, it would be naive to hope that two weeks of Win­ter Games in PyeongChang will have any real im­pact in per­suad­ing Kim Jong-un to scale back his nu­clear arms pro­gram. In Wash­ing­ton this week, US Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son and lead­ing Chi­nese diplo­mat Yang Jiechi reaf­firmed their na­tions’ in­ten­tions to step up eco­nomic pres­sure on Py­ongyang over its nu­clear push. And how­ever in­con­gru­ous the idea of the North and South march­ing to­gether un­der a “uni­fied Ko­rea” flag, they did so at the Syd­ney Olympics in 2000 and have done so nu­mer­ous times since.

That said, the Games are a wel­come respite in ten­sions on the Ko­rean penin­sula, and the chance for se­nior lead­ers such as US Vice-Pres­i­dent Mike Pence and South Ko­rean Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in to meet in­for­mally. At best, the at­ten­dance of Kim Yo-jong, sis­ter of Kim Jong-un, sig­nals a pos­si­ble will­ing­ness by the North to break out of its self-im­posed iso­la­tion. Time will tell. It speaks vol­umes that the North’s ath­letes are un­der 24-hour sur­veil­lance for fear of de­fec­tions to the West.

On the snow and ice, most Aus­tralians know lit­tle about the finer points of bob­sleigh, aerial ski­ing, snow­board­ing and other Win­ter games. But the con­tests are spec­tac­u­lar to watch and will bring forth plenty of great sto­ries. Our 51 ath­letes, re­garded as our best Win­ter Olympics team, have been tipped by US magazine Sports Il­lus­trated to win as many as four medals. The na­tion is be­hind them.

How­ever un­usual the set­ting or un­fa­mil­iar the games, the Olympics are un­beat­able in terms of the ex­cite­ment they gen­er­ate.

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