© Associated PressCouncil News
Date : 02 Jan 2019
Lausanne, Switzerland, January 2, 2019: A Unified Korea and the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018 was one of the biggest success stories last year highlighted by International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach in his 2019 New Year’s Message.
Bach, reflecting on the words written by the founder of the modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin, who, 100 year ago, wrote “Where will destinies lie 100 years from now in 2018?” said the Olympic Winter Games were a success story in so many respects and opened up horizons in more ways than anyone could have imagined.
“The best expression of this was the joint march of the athletes of the NOCs of the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea at the Opening Ceremony. They entered the Olympic Stadium as one team, united behind one flag, the Korean unification flag,” Bach said.
The two Koreas fielded a Unified team in women’s ice hockey in PyeongChang; a trend that was continued later in the year at the Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang when a Unified team appeared in three sports.
The IOC President revealed that negotiations had carried on until just “four hours before the Opening Ceremony in PyeongChang” adding the moment did not happen by chance and was the result of a long process of negotiations and high-level government engagement by the IOC that began in 2014.
“The success of PyeongChang was never a foregone conclusion. Only a few months before the Games the thought of both Korean teams marching peacefully at the Olympic Games together seemed impossible: we were facing missile launches and nuclear tests on the Korean peninsula.
But throughout even the most difficult times of political tensions the IOC always kept the door open for the participation of North Korean athletes in PyeongChang,” Bach revealed.
The leaders of both countries thanked the IOC afterwards for having opened the door for their peace talks. Speaking at the UN General Assembly in September 2018, President Moon Jae-in of South Korea said: “The IOC deserves a lot of credit for surprising changes of late by helping North Korea participate in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.”
Earlier, in March 2018, when Bach visited North Korea, the country’s leader Kim Jong Un said the Olympic Winter Games had shifted the momentum in North-South Korean relations and this was “totally attributable to the efforts of the IOC”.
The momentum of reunification was maintained at the 2018 Asian Games when the Koreas marched together at the Opening Ceremony and a Unified Korea team took part in three sports – women’s basketball, rowing and canoeing in the dragon boat discipline. The Unified team won a historic gold medal in this latter category.
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