North Korea triggers 2018 Winter Olympics security scare

Friday, September 22, 2017

Print this page Email A Friend!


PARIS, France (AFP) — Austria and Germany joined France on Friday in raising the spectre of staying away from the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea amid security fears over nuclear-armed North Korea.

Despite efforts by the International Olympic Committee to calm the jitters, winter Olympic powerhouse Austria said it was prepared to envisage staying away from the Pyeongchang Games next February if security concerns deepened.

Karl Stoss, head of Austria's national Olympic committee, said that "if the situation worsens and the security of our athletes is no longer guaranteed, we will not go to South Korea."
Stoss' comments follow those by France's Sports Minister Laura Flessel, who warned Thursday: "If this gets worse and we do not have our security assured, then our French team will stay here."

The absence of Austria and other leading winter sports powers would be a hammer blow to the Pyeongchang Games.

Austria alone took home 17 medals from the previous Winter Olympics Sochi Games in 2014 and has been the dominant force in alpine skiing and ski jumping.

A more muted response came from Germany, another winter sports heavyweight that tops the all-time Olympic medal table in biathlon, luge and bobsleigh, and whose team won 19 medals in Sochi including eight golds.

The security question and the possibility of keeping the German team at home would be addressed "in good time" by the government, the National Olympic Committee and security authorities, the German interior ministry told AFP subsidiary SID.

French sports minister Flessel, a five-time Olympic medallist in fencing, was the first leading politician to publically cast doubt over a country's participation at the Olympics which run from February 9-25 in Pyeongchang which is situated just 80km (50 miles) from the heavily-fortified frontier with North Korea.

'No Plan B'

On Friday, the IOC issued a statement aimed at calming security fears amid escalating tensions over bellicose North Korea's recent nuclear test and missile launches.
"Athletes safety and security are of course a primary concern for the IOC," the statement said.

"We are in close contact with the heads of government concerned and the United Nations over the past months and there, in none of the discussions, has anybody expressed any doubt about the Olympic Winter Games 2018."

"We continue to monitor the situation on the Korean Peninsula and the region very closely. We are working with the Organising Committee on the preparations of these Games which continue to be on track."

IOC president Thomas Bach sought personally to downplay security fears 10 days ago, and a day earlier a confident IOC spokesman insisted: "There is no plan B".

However the situation has since deteriorated, sparking concern among some countries while others say they are preparing for the event as normal.

Sweden's Sports Minister Annika Standhall, speaking to news agency TT, said it was "very worrying that some countries are imagining not to taking part..." while neighbour Norway said normal preparation were underway.

Italy said they had been reassured by IOC chief Bach's statement on security and were looking forward to a "safe and secure" Olympics while Dutch Olympic Committee spokesman Geert Slot said growing tension on the Korean peninsula was a factor but saw no reason "as things stand at the moment" to follow the French example.

ADVERTISEMENT




POST A COMMENT

HOUSE RULES

1. We welcome reader comments on the top stories of the day. Some comments may be republished on the website or in the newspaper � email addresses will not be published.

2. Please understand that comments are moderated and it is not always possible to publish all that have been submitted. We will, however, try to publish comments that are representative of all received.

3. We ask that comments are civil and free of libellous or hateful material. Also please stick to the topic under discussion.

4. Please do not write in block capitals since this makes your comment hard to read.

5. Please don't use the comments to advertise. However, our advertising department can be more than accommodating if emailed: advertising@jamaicaobserver.com.

6. If readers wish to report offensive comments, suggest a correction or share a story then please email: community@jamaicaobserver.com.

7. Lastly, read our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy



comments powered by Disqus
ADVERTISEMENT

Poll

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

Today's Cartoon

Click image to view full size editorial cartoon
ADVERTISEMENT