Seoul drops Pyongyang from Korea’s 2036 Olympic bid; Mayor said joint strategy was “doomed”

South Korea’s aspirations to host the 2036 Olympic and Paralympic Games will move forward without North Korean capital Pyongyang, Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon said according to a Reuters report Monday.

Jamsil Sports MICE Complex master plan and venue design in Seoul (Populous Image)
Jamsil Sports MICE Complex master plan and venue design in Seoul, possible hub for 2036 Olympics (Populous Image)

Sports official in the South last year announced plans for a bid centered in the capital that hosted the 1988 edition of the Games, or Busan, the large port city on the nation’s southeast coast. However according to the Korean Sport and Olympic Committee (KSOC) – the national body responsible for bringing proposals to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) – neither city has made an official request to bid for the 2036 Games.

PyeongChang in South Korea hosted the 2018 Winter Olympics and the Youth Olympics are set to open in the same province of Gangwon in 2024.

The two Korean teams joined under the unified flag at the opening of the PyeongChang 2018 Games in an era of improved relations between the nations technically still at war. In 2019, North Korean chairman Kim Jong-un, South Korean president Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Donald Trump met in the DMZ for a historic summit meant to mark a step towards normalizing relations.

Seoul and Pyongyang had developed plans to bid for the 2032 Olympic Games and jointly met with IOC officials in 2019 where President Thomas Bach warmly welcomed the bid he called “historic”. Brisbane, Australia was eventually awarded that edition in 2021 in a completely revamped and accelerated bid process that left rivals unprepared, including the joint Korean project. Relations between the two sides of the Korean Peninsula have since soured and tensions continue to escalate with Pyongyang conducting fresh missile tests over the weekend in the context of South Korean and U.S. military drills.

The IOC had suspended North Korea’s national Olympic committee after it refused to send athletes to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, but the governing body has since been reinstated.

“I think the strategy for 2032 was doomed to failure because of unpredictable inter-Korean relations,” Oh told Reuters.

But Oh would not rule out sharing events with the North if tensions between the two sides ease over the next decade.

There is no set timetable for the awarding of the 2036 Olympics now that the IOC has implemented a dialogue based approach to finding suitable partners for future Games. Recently IOC officials have claimed at least 10 parties have expressed interest in hosting and those are thought to include India, Indonesia, Germany, Qatar, Hungary, Turkey, Mexico, Egypt and U.K.

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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