Could North Korea co-host the 2018 Winter Olympics? – Telegraph.co.uk
South Korea’s sports minister Do Jong-hwan has suggested the host country for the 2018 Winter Olympics, starting on February 9, may look to its neighbour North Korea for help in staging the event.
On a trip this week to Pyeongchang, to check preparations for the Games, the minister expressed his desire for a combined effort to make the international competition a success.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to thaw lingering tensions as we try to bring North Korea on board,” said Do, according to the Korea Herald. The minister said PyeongChang 2018 could be the “Peace Olympics” if North Korea was to participate. This follows reports that South Korea’s new president, Moon Jae-in, has suggested the two countries lead a north-east Asian bid to host the 2030 FIFA World Cup.
“Everyone from the central government to Gangwon Province and the organising committee should come together for a successful Olympics,” said Do.
“We need to create more buzz for the event so that is will be a festival for everyone from around the world,” he continued.
The suggestion that North Korea could play a part in the organisation of such a global event has created a buzz in the media, with tensions around the democratic state running high following the recent death of an American student after being released from a North Korean prison.
Do has reportedly already begun discussions with the International Olympic Committee about possible ways to ensure North Korea’s participation.
Pyeongchang is 180km east of the South Korean capital Seoul and will be at the centre of the Games with a nearly completed stadium hosting the opening and closing ceremonies. The two resorts that are set to host the ski and snowboard disciplines are Yongpyong and Phoenix Park, roughly 40km from each other, within the Pyeongchang district and a two-hour drive from the capital.
So far, North Korea hasn’t had any athletes qualify to compete at the Games. Its last chance is a pair of figure skaters. Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik missed out on qualification in Helsinki in March, but have one last chance later this year at a competition in Germany in September.
It has also been suggested the two nations form an inter-Korean women’s ice hockey team to compete in the Games.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has a less than fruitful track record at Winter Olympics, having won only one silver and one bronze in eight Winter Olympic appearances. The country didn’t even participate in the most recent Games in Sochi, Russia, in 2014.
It wouldn’t be the first time the two countries have joined forces to host sporting events. Earlier this year they hosted a women’s football tournament in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, and a women’s hockey competition in South Korea.
According to reports, North Korea’s Masikryong ski resort has been scouted as a potential venue for skiing events. The resort, which is the brainchild of Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un, recently released a bizarre promotional advert to encourage skiers and snowboarders to visit its slopes following reports of child labour being used to keep it open for North Korea’s elite.
Masikryong, which is a three-hour drive from the North Korean capital Pyongyang, has 10 pistes, an ice rink, a swimming pool and a 120-room luxury hotel, but as professional freerider Sam Smoothy reported, when he visited the resort last season, it is largely empty as most local visitors stick to the nursery slopes.
Do has said he will be discussing further the chance to co-host with Jang Woong, North Korea’s delegate to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). He will raise the idea of moving some of the skiing events to locations north of the border with the IOC president Thomas Bach later this month, according to South Korean media.