Seoul cool on Winter Olympics co-hosting idea

North Korean Olympic official expresses hope at involvement in 2018 Games but South says it is not considering the plan.

    IOC president Jacques Rogge announces Pyeongchang as hosts in Durban on July 6 [GALLO/GETTY]

    South Korea has denied it is considering co-hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics with North Korea after a Pyongyang official expressed hope at staging events.

    Chang Ung, a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), also said Asia's third Winter Games would help the development of winter sports in the region which are "still far behind" Europe and North America.

    The South Korean resort of Pyeongchang, bidding for the Winter Olympics for the third straight time, fought off Munich in Germany and the French town of Annecy to win the 2018 event last week.

    Chang arrived in Tokyo on Wednesday for a general meeting of the Olympic Council of Asia, and told the Yonhap news agency that he hoped his country could be involved.

    He said later however that it was not yet time to talk seriously about co-hosting.

    Military situation

    "It is premature to talk about it due to the serious political and military situation between two parts of Korea," he told the AFP news agency when asked about the reports.

    "The situation between two parts of Korea should not be deteriorated any further. That's my hope.

    "The Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang would be held very near the military demarcation line. If something happens, the whole Games could be destroyed.

    "The most important thing is the political and military situation which we could not control. Sport cannot control."

    South Korean presidential spokeswoman Sohn Jie-ae said on Wednesday that Seoul is not considering co-hosting.

    "Our bid was not for a joint Winter Olympics with North Korea," she said.

    The IOC has yet to make any official comment.

    Pyeongchang is in northeast South Korea near the demilitarised zone that separates the two nations.

    Its province was cut into North and South Korean sides after the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended in a truce.

    'Far behind'

    Chang, 73, welcomed the Winter Olympics coming to Asia for the third time after Japan hosted them in 1972 and 1998.

    "Asia is still far behind Europe and America in winter sports," he said.

    "If we organise the Winter Olympics in Asia, it will make a certain contribution to development of winter sports in Asia."

    Ruling and opposition parties in Seoul 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 on 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".

    Athletes from the two nations marched together at the Summer Olympics in Sydney in 2000 and Athens in 2004.

    But relations have worsened sharply in recent years and there was no joint march in Beijing in 2008 or at the Asian Games in China last year.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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