Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Should North Korea co-host the 2018 Pyongchang Winter Olympics?

When Pyongchang (aka Pyeongchang) was selected to host the 2018 Winter Olympics, I knew it was only a matter of time before someone would make a serious suggestion that (a) South Korea and North Korea field a joint team, and (b) North Korea be allowed to host some of the events.

On cue, via AFP:
North Korea would like to share some events in the 2018 Winter Olympics with South Korea, a senior North Korean sports official was quoted as saying Wednesday.

Jang Ung, a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said it was "positive" for Asia to host only its third Winter Games, the South's Yonhap news agency reported from Tokyo.

Asked about the possibility of sharing some events with host town Pyeongchang, Jang replied, "I hope so."

"The political and military situations between the Koreas aren't good and they have to be improved," Jang was quoted as saying. "Otherwise, they could influence the Olympics."

Jang was visiting the Japanese capital for the general assembly of the Olympic Council of Asia.

Pyeongchang, making its third bid for the Winter Olympics, secured the right to host the 2018 event in an IOC vote last week.

The South's ruling and opposition parties have agreed to try to have North and South Korea field a unified team and train players jointly.

But Sohn Hak-Kyu, leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, went further Monday and said he would explore ways for them to co-host the event.

He said the Games should become "a turning point in the history of the divided Korean peninsula, as well as in global peace".
Should I start claiming the title of Kushibo the Clairvoyant? Hardly. What I predicted was the same thing that has been happening since the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics.

Just as in past years, we have someone like opposition leader Sohn Hakkyu saying this would be "a turning point in the history of the divided peninsula." That's long been the selling point, even becoming a key part of the bid for the 2014 games.

But will we see this come to any fruition? In the past, the best that's happened (as I recall) is the North and South teams walking in to the opening ceremonies together.

In the end, the prospect of a joint team ends up being a bargaining chip for Pyongyang, and they themselves back out in the end. The only way I see a joint team going through is if we actually see reunification between now and February 2018.

But I could be wrong. And that begs the question: is fielding a joint team fair or wise? Athletes on both sides of the DMZ work very hard to make the team, and maybe it's not right that they should lose their spot to bring on someone from another country (even if the same nation). There's also the issue of team cohesion: a joint team put together in the last few months might not be able to practice and play together often enough to make an effective team for events that require it.

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1 comment:

  1. You mean, North and South Korea aren't the same political entity?! When it's politically or diplomatically convenient for Seoul, North Korea is primed for "reunification" with the motherland. But now, Seoul's not in a sharing mood? I really don't see the appeal of visiting North Korea, and I wouldn't want my money to go directly to those responsible for gulags. But, what about using a percentage of profits for a North Korea development fund administered by some international body that South Korea can't touch for domestic purposes and that can collect interest while the world figures out what to do with the moral pariahs?

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