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2ND LEAD Koreas to march together at Olympics, 22 Northern athletes at Games By John Bagratuni and Derek Wilson, dpa

Europe, Europa
20.01.2018
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Berlin (dpa) - North Korea will send 22 athletes to the Winter Olympic Games in South Korea next month and both Korean teams will march together in the opening ceremony, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said Saturday.

A combined Korean team will compete for the first time, in women‘s ice hockey, while North Korean athletes will also compete in figure skating, short track speed skating, alpine and cross-country skiing at the February 9-25 Pyeongchang Games.

"The Olympic spirit is about respect, dialogue and understanding,"  IOC president Thomas Bach said. "The Olympic Winter Games Pyeongchang 2018 are hopefully opening the door to a brighter future on the Korean peninsula, and inviting the world to join in a celebration of hope."

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said earlier in the month the country would participate at the Games and bilateral talks have been ongoing over the details.

"Let us not forget that such an agreement would have seemed impossible only a few weeks ago," Bach said. "In this respect, I would like to express my most sincere thanks to the governments of the Democratic People‘s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea for paving the way for these decisions in the Olympic spirit."

The fine print was decided at a meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, hosted by the IOC, which included representatives of both countries‘ Olympic committees, their IOC members, government officials and the local organizing committee for the Games.

North Korean figure skaters Ryom Tae Ok and Kim Ju Sik, who had qualified for the Games but missed the entry deadline, will compete while wildcards were issued in other sports.

Two short track skaters, three cross-country skiers and three alpine skiers will now attend the Games in addition to 12 North Korean women who will be part of the combined Korea hockey team.

That squad now consists of 35 players but to maintain fairness, only 22 can be selected for each match. At least three picked must be North Korean.

They will be represented by the Korean Unification Flag and Arirang, a Korean folk song, will be used as the combined anthem.

The athletes will be accompanied by 24 coaches and officials and 21 media representatives.

Securing the participation of North Korea is a significant boost for the IOC. Not only does it ease security concerns for the Games in light of increasing tension on the peninsula, it is a much needed good news story in light of recent doping and corruption allegations.

"The Olympic Games show us what the world could look like, if we were all guided by the Olympic spirit of respect and understanding," Bach said. "This is the Olympic message that will go from Pyeongchang to the world."

 

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