Joint North And South Korean Olympic Bid Buoyed By New IOC Rules

Plans for a joint bid between Seoul, South Korea and Pyongyang, North Korea were given a boost last week after key announcements were made at the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) 134th Session in Lausanne, Switzerland that wrapped up Wednesday.

The Unified Korean team enters PyeongChang Olympic Stadium (PyeongChang 2018 Photo)

Korean Sport and Olympic Committee (KSOC) President Lee Kee-heung was named among 10 new members of the IOC and on Thursday after arriving in Seoul he said efforts to bid for the Games would be accelerated.

“I told the North Korean side that we should try to win our bid in 2021,” Lee said, according to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

“Sports Minister Kim Il-guk asked that we deliver a formal request through our unification ministry.”

Previous IOC scheduling dictated that the election of the 2032 host city would have taken place at a Session in 2025, but Olympic Charter changes voted into effect Wednesday removed that rule, and now specially appointed Future Host Committee’s can recommend a host city to be elected at any time it deems appropriate.

IOC President Thomas Bach said last week that host contracts will be signed strategically when cities and the IOC agree its time to commit.

IOC President Thomas Bach among delegations at a tripartite meeting with sport officials from North and South Korea in Lausanne, Switzerland February 15, 2019 (IOC Photo)
IOC President Thomas Bach among delegations at a tripartite meeting with sport officials from North and South Korea in Lausanne, Switzerland February 15, 2019 (IOC Photo)

The requirement that a city be named to host the Games has also been relaxed, and instead the charter will stipulate that “multiple cities, regions and/or countries” could stage  the Games.  This change will open the door to Korea’s proposed multi-nation bid between the North and South.

The new rules “will provide a good opportunity for us,” Lee said.

One requirement that remains in the charter and host contract is the basic protection of human rights within the host city and nation, and free entry into the nation for all accredited athletes, media and personnel.  In order to be elected to stage the Games, North Korea most dramatically reverse its atrocious record in these areas – a daunting request if the goal is 2021.

Lee said last week he met with his counterpart, North Korea’s Olympic Chief and Sports Minister Kim Il-guk on multiple occasions in Switzerland to discuss the potential bid, a concept that President Bach has already endorsed in a strategic tripartite meeting held earlier this year also in Lausanne.

“Our discussions went well, and I think we will have some positive outcomes,” he said.

The early emergence of a joint bid has been a roller-coaster ride since the PyeongChang Winter Olympics first helped to thaw tensions across the peninsula using the playing field.  Diplomatic summits last year and renewed relations with the United State through President Donald Trump brought the bid to the table for discussion.

Joint Korean 2032 Olympic Bid At Risk As The North Takes A Step Back

But there have been no new talks since February, and after the North re-started its missile testing program putting future amicable relations at risk.

On Sunday U.S. President Trump became the first sitting President to enter North Korea when he crossed the border in the DMZ for a few seconds while strolling with North Korea’s Leader Kim Jong-un, and it is hoped that this could again move diplomatic relation in a positive direction.

The 2024 Summer Games will take place in Paris, and Los Angeles has already been given the nod to host in 2028.  Many nations have expressed interest in bidding for 2032 including Indonesia, China, India, Australia and Germany.

Bach said last week that several nations have expressed interest to host in 2032 and 2036 and talk have already begun.

A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. Robert Livingstone is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians.

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