Ten­sions cast doubt over 2018 Olympics

IOC down­plays con­cerns over Korean Penin­sula se­cu­rity

Global Times - Weekend - - SPORTS -

Olympic Games or­ga­niz­ers sought on Fri­day to ease French con­cerns about next year’s win­ter Games in South Korea, say­ing the safety of ath­letes was their pri­or­ity and na­tions in the re­gion had no doubts that the event would go ahead.

With ten­sions on the Korean Penin­sula ris­ing, France on Thurs­day be­came the first na­tion to pub­licly raise the pos­si­bil­ity of skip­ping the Fe­bru­ary 9-25 Pyeongchang Olympic Games on se­cu­rity grounds.

North Korea, which con­ducted a sixth nu­clear test on Septem­ber 3 to global con­dem­na­tion, said on Fri­day it might test a hy­dro­gen bomb over the Pa­cific Ocean af­ter US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump threat­ened to de­stroy the coun­try.

“We are mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion on the Korean Penin­sula and the re­gion very closely,” an In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee (IOC) spokesper­son said.

“Ath­letes’ safety and se­cu­rity are of course a pri­mary con­cern for the IOC. This is why even in the past few days at the United Na­tions we con­tinue to be in touch with the heads of state con­cerned.”

“In none of the dis­cus­sions has any­body ex­pressed any doubt about the Olympic Games 2018,” the spokesper­son said, adding that prepa­ra­tions for the Games re­mained on track.

The multi­bil­lion dol­lar Pyeongchang Olympic Games will be held just 80 kilo­me­ters from the de­mil­i­ta­rized zone be­tween North and South Korea, the world’s most heav­ily armed bor­der.

France’s Sports Min­is­ter Laura Fles­sel had said Thurs­day if the cri­sis deep­ened and ath­letes’ se­cu­rity could not be as­sured, “the French Olympic Games team will stay at home.”

“We’re not there yet,” she added, just a week af­ter the IOC awarded the 2024 Sum­mer Olympic Games to Paris.

Win­ter Olympic heavy­weights Aus­tria also warned Fri­day they would not take part in the 2018 Games should there be an es­ca­la­tion in ten­sions over North Korea’s atomic weapons pro­gram.

Karl Stoss, head of Aus­tria’s na­tional Olympic com­mit­tee, said that “if the sit­u­a­tion wors­ens and the se­cu­rity of our ath­letes is no longer guar­an­teed, we will not go to South Korea.”

“We’re not con­sid­er­ing, how­ever, that we will get to that,” Stoss told the APA news agency.

The ab­sence of Aus­tria would be a ham­mer blow to the Win­ter Olympic Games, the coun­try hav­ing taken home 17 medals from the Sochi Games in 2014.

Aus­tria cur­rently tops by far (with 114 over­all, in­clud­ing 34 gold) the Olympic medals ta­ble for alpine ski­ing and is the lead­ing na­tion in ski jump­ing.

Other Win­ter sports pow­er­houses said they were mon­i­tor­ing de­vel­op­ments but had no plans to miss the Olympic Games.

The US Olympic com­mit­tee said it was work­ing with au­thor­i­ties to en­sure the safety of its del­e­ga­tion, while Rus­sia said se­cu­rity was each host coun­try’s re­spon­si­bil­ity and China’s for­eign min­istry said it was not aware of any plans for the its Olympic team to not at­tend.

Swe­den also had no plans to stay away.

North and South Korea re­main tech­ni­cally at war af­ter their 1950-53 con­flict­con ended with a truce and not a

pea­cepe treaty.

Pho­tos: VCG

The Alpen­sia Re­sort in Pyeongchang, South Korea In­set: An ice sculp­ture of the Olympic rings in Pyeongchang

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