Seoul Mayor Urges Easing Of Military Tensions To Resurrect Joint Korean 2032 Olympic Bid

The Mayor of Seoul has called for the end of military drills on the Korean Peninsula to help facilitate a peaceful environment for organizing a proposed joint bid by North and South Korea to host the 2032 Olympic Games.

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

The Capital’s Mayor Park Won-soon Tuesday stressed the urgency of preparing a bid immediately, after plans that were formed in 2018 stalled a year ago when diplomacy between the two nations on the Korean peninsula broke down.

The stagnant bid between Pyongyang and Seoul has left a gap for other projects to fill, including a regional concept from Queensland state in Australia that has quickly become the front runner in the race.  The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has not set a timeline for the bid process but officials have indicated that they will choose a host city when the timing is right, and have hinted that could happen as early as next year.

Another bid has emerged from Jakarta in Indonesia, and further interest has come from Shanghai in China, Madrid in Spain, Germany and India.

Park told reporters “I proposed [the end of the drills] because we need to create a peaceful atmosphere on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia right now so that we can make concrete preparations for bidding to host the Olympics.”

The Mayor has proposed an end to the drills at least until the end of the Beijing Winter Games in February 2022.

“We should strive to change the current stalled situation between the two [Koreas] in order to avoid this crucial golden time being wasted helplessly,” he said according to UPI.

“It is urgent for us to start preparations for co-hosting Olympic events.

“We should stop all activities that generate military tensions and conflict.”

South Korean President Reiterates Commitment To Joint Olympic Bid With The North

Park suggested the bid preparations alone may help reignite the peace process, he said “we cannot just watch these escalating moves building up.”

“We need to make an opportunity and I think the joint Olympics preparation will be the first starting point of making peace.”

The 2018 cooling of tensions on the peninsula was triggered when North Korean leader Kim Jong-un announced his nation’s participation at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games in the South where the a unified Korean team marched into the Opening Ceremony and a combined women’s hockey team took to the ice.

Later in 2018 three summits were held between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in where the idea of a joint Olympic bid was formed.  Agreements were made to field joint teams at other major events including the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.  IOC President Thomas Bach welcomed the “historic bid.”

Early in 2019 Seoul was nominated by the Korean Sport and Olympic Committee (KSOC) as South Korea’s potential host city with an estimated budget of USD $3.44 billion (3.9 trillion won).

But when a summit between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump ended last February without success, military posturing re-escalated and North Korea restarted a missile testing campaign.  Discussions around an Olympic bid stalled when a joint-liaison office was dismantled.

IOC President Thomas Bach (centre) with Gangwon Governor Choi Moon-soon (left) shortly after Gangwon 2024 awarded Winter Youth Olympics by 79-2 vote (Photo: Christophe Moratal/IOC)

IOC President Thomas Bach (centre) with Gangwon Governor Choi Moon-soon (left) shortly after Gangwon 2024 awarded Winter Youth Olympics by 79-2 vote (Photo: Christophe Moratal/IOC)

Last month Gangwon, the only province to straddle the North and South Korean border, was elected to host the 2024 Winter Youth Olympics using facilities from the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang and Gangneung.  The IOC said it was open to a KSOC proposal to co-host with North Korea “if the circumstances allow.”

South Korea’s only Summer Games in Seoul in 1988 were boycotted by North Korea.  There has never been an Olympic Games hosted by two nations, but the IOC opened up the possibility last year when it introduced a reformed bid process that encourages regional Games concepts in order to decrease costs and increase sustainability.

About Robert Livingstone

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.