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PyeongChang says 'impossible' to split Olympic skiing events with N. Korea

2013/09/04 09:40

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Sept. 4 (Yonhap) -- Organizers of the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea's PyeongChang said Wednesday that it would be "impossible" to split Olympic skiing events with North Korea, an idea earlier suggested by a Pyongyang official.

Voice of America on Tuesday had quoted Chang Ung, an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member from North Korea, as saying that the Masik ski resort could "possibly hold Olympic events" once it's completed.

Chang qualified his remarks by saying it's a complicated matter that requires discussions with the IOC and the International Ski Federation (FIS).

In response, PyeongChang's organizing committee said in a statement that holding skiing events on both sides of the border would not be feasible for legal and logistical reasons.

PyeongChang officials noted that the Olympic Games are only to be held in the host city under the IOC regulations.

Rule 34 under Chapter 5 of the IOC's Olympic Charter states that "All sports competition must take place in the host city of the Olympic Games, unless the IOC Executive Board authorizes the organization of certain events in other cities, sites or venues situated in the same country."

   The Olympic Charter also says certain events may be held in a bordering country "on an exceptional basis" when "geographical or topographical reasons" make it impossible to organize them in the host city. However, PyeongChang, a ski resort town about 180 kilometers east of Seoul in Gangwon Province, is unlikely to have such reasons that would prevent it from holding skiing events.

PyeongChang organizers also noted that IOC President Jacques Rogge has previously expressed his reservations about holding events north of the border.

PyeongChang officials said it makes little logistical sense to host skiing events north of the border.

"The Olympic Games are supposed to be centered on athletes and host cities are to provide technical and operational support to ensure the optimal environment for competition," PyeongChang's statement read. "And it'd be difficult to satisfy that by holding events in Masik resort, which is more than 300 kilometers away from PyeongChang."

   PyeongChang added that building additional infrastructure, such as an athletes' village and media center, would present problems if the North were to hold skiing events.

In July 2011, soon after PyeongChang won the right to host the 2018 Winter Olympics, Chang Ung also said he hopes to see the two Koreas co-host the quadrennial event. Government and sports officials in the South quickly rejected the idea.

PyeongChang won the bid for the Winter Games on its third try, after coming up short in 2003 and 2007. In the two earlier bids, PyeongChang had said an Olympics in Gangwon Province, which borders North Korea, would help bring peace to the peninsula.

Critics said the bids were too politically charged and that pushing the peace storyline for two straight bids bred indifference among IOC members. In 2011, PyeongChang's winning bid was built largely on a compact venue plan, with all facilities reachable within 30 minutes of each other. It focused more on promoting and developing winter sports across Asia, and less on fostering peace on the divided peninsula.

The possibility of putting events north of the border would only negate PyeongChang's strength that helped it win the bid in the first place.

The IOC has only allowed splitting events across two cities in special cases. At both the 1956 Melbourne Games and the 2008 Beijing Olympics, equestrian events were held in different locations -- Stockholm and Hong Kong, respectively -- for quarantine reasons.