North Korea’s new year’s announcement to talk with the South was an icebreaker. Having its ice skaters and other winter athletes possibly competing in the South would be a first in the history of the Olympic Movement, ancient or modern: two countries technically at war as host and guest on the field of fair play.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the PyeongChang Organizing Committee of the Olympic Games (POCOG) are both eager for North Korean participation. I have spoken with the heads of both, also with the Governor of the region, and they are earnestly hoping for the Games to alleviate tension on the Korean Peninsula. The slogan of the Games is “Peace.Connected.”
Two North Korean athletes qualified, in ice dancing, but the North Korean Olympic Committee missed notifying PyeongChang’s deadline of late November.
Organizers are willing to overlook that, and even create some wild card places for more North Korean athletes not qualifying through ordinary channels.
It is a credo of the Olympic Movement that sport needs to be above politics. The Olympics are people-to-people, and athlete-centered. On the field of play, all that matters are skill, fair play, and overall sportsmanship.
Sport has served to enable discussion between the North and South.
· They co-hosted several sporting exchanges this year, including a women’s soccer tournament in Pyongyang and a women’s hockey competition in South Korea.
· Last June, South Korea’s President Moon suggested that they apply to co-host the 2030 World Cup.
· The two teams processed together into the Sydney 2000 Olympics, short of competing as one team
The “autonomy of sport” adopted repeatedly by the UN, says that sport should be free of undue influences - political, legal, or commercial. So, the IOC might fund in part North Korean athletes to participate as it does worldwide, not violating UN or other sanctions regimes currently in place on North Korea.