Saturday 24 March 2018

‘It’s time for politics to take over’ after Korean show of unity at Olympics

IOC chief Thomas Bach said the Pyeongchang Games had gotten off to a great start, but warned that ‘sport cannot create peace’.

IOC president Thomas Bach hailed the body's efforts to bring the Koreas together (AP)
IOC president Thomas Bach hailed the body's efforts to bring the Koreas together (AP)

By Stephen Wade

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has played its part in getting North and South Korea together for the Pyeongchang Games, the body’s president said – and now it is time for politics to take over.

Thomas Bach warned: “You know, sport cannot create peace. We cannot lead their political negotiations.

“We have sent this message — this dialogue — that negotiations can lead to a positive result. Now it’s up to the political side to use this momentum.”

Miyabi Onitsuka of Japan crashes during the women’s slopestyle final (AP)

The IOC chief said he is hopeful the detente will continue after the “Olympic flame has been extinguished” at the closing ceremony on February 25 in the mountains of South Korea.

Mr Bach – who was born in West Germany and won a gold medal in fencing for a divided nation – has been emotional about the Koreas and their presence together.

He said the Olympics had gotten off to a great start, and dismissed the fact that high winds forced the first two Alpine skiing races to be rescheduled for later in the week when difficult conditions are expected to ease off.

“These cancellations do not worry us at all,” he said. “The international federations, with whom we have talked, they have told us there is no reason to worry. We have two weeks to go. We are an outdoor sport and we manage these kind of cancellations.”

USA’s Kendall Wesenberg during the Women’s Skeleton practice on day three of the PyeongChang Games (AP)

Meanwhile, local organisers apologised for up to two-hour bus delays affecting 55,000 workers and volunteers who have been forced to wait in cold, freezing weather. Buses have been irregular, slow moving and there have been too few for some of those working the Olympics.

Organisers said transportation for dignitaries and athletes had gone off without a hitch.

“There are some shortfalls,” said Kang Hee-up, director general of transport. “I’d like to apologise for the inconvenience caused.”

Mr Kang added: “We have had limited resources and this is a mountainous area, and the shortage of infrastructure here has been a factor. We prepared. But now as we are operating on site, the demand is going over our capacity to meet it.”

Organisers said they are using 1,800 buses at the Olympics, and hope to add about 10% more to meet the demand. They say a budget increase to fund the buses has already been approved by the local organising committee.

“I cannot remember any games when we did not have transportation problems in the beginning,” Mr Bach said. “You cannot rehearse an Olympic Games in regard to transport.”

Press Association

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