International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach visited Pyongyang and met with Workers’ Party of Korea Chairman Kim Jong Un. In response to North Korea’s expression of its wish to participate in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, Bach suggested that [the two Koreas] march together at the opening ceremonies.
This was extremely overzealous. In reaction, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga merely stated, “We are closely watching the coordination between the IOC and the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Organizing Committee and other organizations.”
This is was a very sensible response because North Korea, which is being sanctioned by the international community over the nuclear and missile issues, has not made any commitment to abandon its nuclear programs, and prospects remain completely uncertain for a solution to the abduction issue, which is a high priority for Japan.
There is no way to make a judgment on North Korea’s participation in the Tokyo Olympics under the present circumstances.
The Olympic charter “opposes the use of sports and athletes for political and commercial purposes in any form.” This obviously applies to the IOC president as well.
While watching a women’s soccer match in Pyongyang with Bach, Kim complimented him by saying: “Credit goes to the IOC for the thawing of the frigid North-South relationship at the (PyeongChang) Olympics.” He reportedly asked Bach to visit frequently “as a friend.”
At the PyeongChang Olympics, the IOC bent the rules and approved the participation of a joint North-South women’s ice hockey team. It turned a blind eye to fairness in sports competition in allowing a larger number of registered players for one team alone. This was an act of blasphemy against the Olympic Games by the IOC itself, which is supposed to be the guardian of sports.
With regard to the doping issue, the IOC quickly lifted the ban on Russian athletes even though Russia has not even admitted that the state was involved. This was in sharp contrast with the firm stance taken by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).
Bach received high praise from the international community for forming a team of refugee athletes at the Rio de Janeiro Games. There was even speculation that he was fishing for a Nobel Peace Prize. Reporters asked him at the PyeongChang Olympics if he thought he deserved a Nobel Prize. This was probably because Bach’s excessive involvement with politics was seen as objectionable.
Sports and the Olympics can never be kept completely separate from politics. This is why diligent efforts must be made to maintain distance between them. It is unacceptable [for Bach] to be snuggling up to political leaders of his own accord.