What can Frustrate South Korea’s Olympic Preparation?

Just when South Korea thought it was finally creating a buzz for the XXIII Olympic Games in Pyeongchang many world experts are sounding the alarm. The reason – North Korea fired its most powerful missile last December and reignited safety worries about the small mountain town that will host the games not far from the rivals’ border.

Consequently, the main international sports competition will be held in the conditions of sharp deterioration of the crisis on the Korean Peninsula. At the same time, the conflicting parties are moving so rapidly towards a direct head-on collision that the threat of an armed conflict is becoming quite real.

Moreover, it seems that the Trump administration deliberately refuses to seek a compromise. Instead, the White House, “playing with muscles,” accuses the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea of escalating tensions in the Asia-Pacific region.

Indeed, the “nuclear club” in the hands of the odious North Korean Kim Jong Un threatens international stability. However, paradoxically this may seem to many, but it was Washington’s policy that provoked Pyongyang to develop its own nuclear program.In many ways, because the former American leaders, disregarding international law, used military force to overthrow undesirable regimes, the tragic examples of Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya forced the ruling elite of North Korea to resort to the creation of nuclear weapons as the only way to protect them.

This opinion is completely shared by the director of the French Institute of International and Strategic Studies P.Boniface. According to him, Kim Jong Un justly doesn’t want to repeat the fate of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi.

At the same time, there are politicians in the West who preserve sobriety of mind and pragmatism. They call for a dialogue with Pyongyang. Most surprising they are both from states of the most loyal allies of Washington and countries that are difficult to suspect in friendship with the United States. In particular, German Foreign Minister S.Gabriel warned US President Donald Trump of militant statements against North Korea.

He said: “The experience of Europeans cannot be underestimated; we like lunatics entered the First World War, because the governments of the conflicting countries refused to dialogue. The war began because people neglected diplomacy, and now militant rhetoric is becoming more acute, and this is an alarming sign. We are seriously concerned about Trump’s words that the US military is ready to solve the North Korean problem by fire and fury.”

In such circumstances, to hold the Olympics in Pyongchang is becoming truly dangerous. So, the head of the Austrian Olympic Committee and the French Sports Minister warned that their teams would refuse to participate in the Olympic Games if the host country could not guarantee the safety of delegations. Sports officials can understand: to compete in the conditions of a fierce squabble of nuclear powers is not the brightest prospect. At the same time, the International Olympic Committee headed by President Thomas Bach resembles a stillborn and amorphous organization that cannot say anything intelligible.

While high-ranking politicians cannot come to some decision, ordinary citizens are scared. According to the Ministry of Sports of South Korea, organizers had managed to sell less than half of the available tickets by the end of December, , which was the lowest result in the history of the modern Olympic movement. Diplomatic agencies of most European countries “strongly recommended” their citizens to refuse to travel to Pyeongchang. South Korean officials are sounding the alarm – the costs of organizing the Olympics clearly will not pay off.

South Korea wants more than a million spectators for the Olympics, which will be held just 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the border, and expects 30 percent of them to be foreign visitors. Organizers have struggled for months to spark enthusiasm for the games locally, where the national conversation over the past year has been dominated by a massive corruption scandal that toppled and jailed the last president, as well as North Korea’s flurry of weapons tests.

If high-ranking officials of the International Olympic Committee do not find the courage to correct their own mistakes, the forthcoming Olympics in Pyeongchang will deal a huge blow to the status of the Olympic movement. Compete in the empty stands – the worst that athletes can imagine. For this reason, the transfer of the upcoming Olympic Games to another country is seen as the most reasonable step.

So, Germany and France, several years ago, claimed along with South Korea to host the 2018 Olympics, can become a “spare airfield” for the Olympic movement. At the same time, the developed social, sports and transport infrastructure in European countries will allow holding the XXIII Winter Olympic Games at a decent level.

Sung Baikyou an official from Pyeongchang Organizing Committee said: “It wouldn’t make sense for anyone to cancel tickets to Pyeongchang because of fears about North Korea. There’s no war; bombs aren’t being dropped on Pyeongchang.”

But there’s nothing organizers can do if North Korea raises fears even higher with more tests. North Korea has conducted 20 ballistic missile launches last year, and the tests are becoming increasingly aggressive; some in the South fear that Washington might consider a pre-emptive strike on the North at any time.

“If there’s any other solution, tell me,” Sung said. “It’s not like we can jump up and catch North Korean missiles with a net.”

By Clement Kpeklitsu

 

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