SEOUL – Organizers of the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang have rejected suggestions by a North Korea’s International Olympic Committee (IOC) member that some events could take place in the DPRK.
PyeongChang’s organizing committee said that legal and geographic reasons meant that it would be impractical and logistically difficult for the ski resort of Masik – currently under construction in North Korea – to play host to skiing events in 2018.
The response comes after American broadcaster Voice of America quoted Chang Ung, a North Korean IOC member, who suggested that while Masik “possibly could hold Olympic events,” it would be complicated matter that would require IOC consultation.
PyeongChang organizers argue that rule 34 of the IOC’s Olympic Charter stipulates that events must take place in the host city, unless the IOC Executive Board allows it.
Other cities can only host events on an “exceptional basis”, and the organizers warned that it would be impractical to host events in the DPRK.
A statement by the PyeongChang organizers says that the “games are supposed to be centered on athletes and host cities are to provide technical and operational support to ensure the optimal environment for competition.”
“It’d be difficult to satisfy that by holding events in Masik resort, which is more than 300 kilometers away from PyeongChang.”
The building of the infrastructure and services needed to host the thousands of participating athletes and spectators in Masik could present problems.
CLEANING UP ITS ACT
Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Sociology and Modern Korea Leeds University Aidan Foster-Carter told NK News that while “a lot can happen in five years”, for the North to host any event it “would really have to clean up its act”.
Foster-Carter cites S. Korea’s bid to host the 1988 games as a precedent, when there was official talk about the North potentially hosting some events, “but the politics proved insurmountable”.
“Don’t forget also that Kangwon is the only Korean province bisected by the DMZ,” he told NK News, “In the Sunshine era there was province-level cooperation. Kangwon (ROK) helped control a pine-tree pest, and gave baby salmon for release in Kangwon (DPRK) rivers.”
This is not the first time North Koreans have expressed a desire to split the 2018 games with the South: when PyeongChang was first granted the right to host the games in 2011, North Korean spokesman Chang Ung said he hoped both Koreas could host the games.
In two of its previous bids for the games – in 2003 and 2007 – PyeongChang suggested the games could be hosted in Gangwon Province, on the South-North border, as a means of reconciliation between the two Koreas.
The Masik ski resort is currently under construction, with soldiers of the Korean People’s Army working over-time to ensure the 110 km of pistes, cable cars, hotels, and helicopter pad are all completed by the end of the year.
The resort garnered attention in August when the Swiss federal council blocked an attempt by Swiss ski equipment manufacturer Bartholet Maschinenbau AG Flums to supply the DPRK with $7.5 million worth of luxury ski resort equipment on the grounds that the deal would break Switzerland’s embargo of North Korea.
Chairman of BMF’s Board of Directors Roland Bartholet said that “the export would have been no problem. Both the civilian population as well as the regime could have used the facility.”
A new directive expanded an embargoed goods list for North Korea to include a new term that banned, “installations for infrastructure and equipment for sports facilities with a luxury character”.
The Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) insisted the list was not adapted especially to prohibit BMF’s s cable car deal, but criticized the company as having been naive to believe that ordinary citizens would use it.
Despite arguments from the North Korean state that the resort is “aimed at the improvement of material and cultural lives of the people”, a spokesperson for SECO argued that it was a “prestige and propaganda project of the regime”.
Picture: Korea Central News Agency