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Editorial: Behavior of host nation called into question at Pyeongchang Olympics

  • February 26, 2018
  • , The Japan News , 8:25 p.m.
  • English Press

The Pyeongchang Olympics have ended. Nothing is more gratifying than seeing all the schedules completed without major trouble.


It was an extraordinary meet, as the host nation of South Korea and North Korea, which is continuing its nuclear and missile development, tried throughout to use the occasion for political purposes.


The regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sent Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of the Workers’ Party Central Committee, to the South to attend the closing ceremony. Kim Yong Chol is named by South Korea and the United States as a target of their independent sanctions. He is suspected to have masterminded the sinking of a South Korean navy patrol boat. Kim Jong Un’s choice of such a figure can therefore be regarded as a provocative act.


Washington sent to the closing ceremony presidential adviser Ivanka Trump, among others.


The regional situation cast a shadow over Olympic events as well. The North-South joint women’s ice hockey team, which was formed by the South’s Moon Jae In administration as a definitive way to indicate his conciliatory stance toward the North, could not win a single game and finished in last place. It is no wonder that diassatisfaction with this political intervention continued to smolder among South Korean people related to the event.


The North’s female cheering squad sang and danced at event venues without concern for other people’s reactions. Its behavior most likely drove home the abnormality of an autocratic regime among the general public.


In 2011, when it was decided the Winter Games would be held in Pyeongchang, then South Korean President Lee Myung Bak proudly said, “This provides a good opportunity for our country to become a first-rate advanced nation.” A high-speed railway was newly built to link Incheon International Airport with Pyeongchang and its environs, which had been left behind in the wave of development. But it remains to be seen whether the railway will be economically viable.


Strict IOC probe needed


The number of cities bidding to host Olympic Games has been decreasing. Particularly dark clouds are looming over the prospects for Winter Games, which call for huge spending on the construction and maintenance of competition courses and facilities.


For the International Olympic Committee, which is increasingly feeling a sense of crisis, South Korea was invaluable because its bid to host the Winter Games was backed by nationwide enthusiasm.


That the IOC approved the formation of the North-South joint women’s ice hockey team, among other dicisions, at the price of undermining fairness in relation to other countries can be seen as consideration for South Korea. The Pyeongchang Olympics has left behind a problem as to the relationship between the IOC and a host country.


The fact that banned drugs were detected in participating athletes, including a Russian man who won a bronze medal in curling, could represent a miscalculation for the IOC.


Wanting to minimize friction with Winter Olympics powerhouse Russia was perhaps a major reason behind the IOC’s approval of participation by some Russian athletes in their personal capacity, despite the country being blamed for organized doping practices. The IOC is called on to investigate strictly to find whether there was any fault with the screening qualifications for Olympic participation.


Japanese athletes performed superbly. Japan captured a total of 13 medals, a record number for the nation in a single Winter Games. Nana Takagi won gold in the women’s mass start, a newly introduced speed skating event, while the women’s curling team captured bronze on Saturday, wrapping up the Games with smiles.


The next Olympic Games is set for two years from now in Tokyo. Preparations must be accelerated.

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