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2ND LEAD Austria may boycott South Korean Olympics over security fears By Albert Otti, dpa

Europe, Europa
22.09.2017
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Vienna (dpa) - Austria will boycott next year‘s Winter Games in South Korea if tensions with North Korea get worse and athlete safety cannot be guaranteed, the head of the country‘s Olympic Committee said on Friday.

The Games are scheduled to take place from February 9-25 in Pyeongchang, less than 100 kilometres away from the border with North Korea.

North Korea‘s recent ballistic missile and nuclear tests have been the focus of discussions this week at the UN General Assembly in New York.

Karl Stoss, the Olympic chief for powerhouse skiing nation Austria, is worried.

"If the situation gets worse and the security of the athletes is no longer guaranteed, we will not go to South Korea," he told Austrian press agency APA in Innsbruck.

Stoss added, however, that Austria does not expect the situation to deteriorate that far. His committee would keep monitoring the situation before taking a final decision, he said.

But he made clear that the 2018 Winter Olympics would have to be cancelled if security risks did become too high, as there is no plan B for an alternative host country.

French sports minister Laura Flessel was earlier quoted by French media as echoing Stoss‘s sentiments in a radio interview with RTL.

"We will never put our team in danger," Flessel was quoted as saying. "If it gets worse and we do not have their security confirmed, our French team will stay here."

However, contacted by dpa, the French Sports Ministry said that it attached great importance to athlete safety, but did not confirm Flessel‘s comments.

"We are not looking at this scenario at all," a spokeswoman said.

Earlier this month, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said there was "not even a hint" that the Games were under threat. He said he was hoping for a diplomatic solution to tensions in the region.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Friday described Donald Trump as "deranged" as the recalcitrant nation hit back at the US president following Trump‘s latest attempt to curb Kim‘s nuclear programme.

Pyongyang‘s foreign minister also said North Korea may test a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific.

Trump signed an executive order on Thursday boosting the United States‘ ability to sanction foreign banks, individuals and companies that facilitate trade with North Korea.

Trump had also threatened to "totally destroy" North Korea in his maiden address to the UN on Tuesday when he referred to Kim as "Rocket Man."

South Korean President Moon Jae In has said the North‘s ongoing provocations are "extremely deplorable."

The chief executive of the Swedish Olympic Committee said on Friday that Sweden is still planning to participate in the Olympics.

"Our position is crystal clear. We are aiming to take part in the Olympic Games in South Korea and I am sure they will take place," chief executive Peter Reinebo told Swedish television SVT.

The Swedish Olympic Committee is closely following events and is soon planning to travel to South Korea. It would heed recommendations from Swedish authorities and the International Olympic Committee, he added.

Reinebo said the Swedish Olympic Committee was not aware that any Swedish athletes or coaches had raised concerns.

"The security at Olympic events is enormous. We have a different world now and several incidents have taken place, and you can experience trouble in any major city or airport," Reinebo said.

Neighbouring Denmark has also not seen any reason to consider bowing out of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, the director of the Danish Sports Confederation, Morten Molholm, told Danish broadcaster DR.

 

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