Use Pyeongchang as festival for peace

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Use Pyeongchang as festival for peace


The ancient Olympics was a festival of peace. The city-states of ancient Greece that participated in the games suspended wars and postponed trials and executions. If they didn’t, the host city of Elis would fine them and ban them from competing.

However, that was only an ideal theory. In reality, force came before law. Sparta had a powerful military, and its violations of peace were condoned. But it would have been difficult to punish the Spartan warriors or collect fines from them. To this day, international politics are swayed more by power than ideals.

The Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, has also turned into a diplomatic battleground. With Russia hosting its first Olympic Games since the fall of the Soviet Union, Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to expand his influence. Western leaders have tried to discourage Putin by not coming to Sochi, and because Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had an uncomfortable encounter there, the Olympics has been tainted by politics.

Only four years remain until the Pyeongchang Olympics. The 1988 Seoul Olympic Games was a festival of reconciliation. Western countries boycotted the Moscow Olympics in 1980, followed by the Communist bloc’s boycott of the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. Finally, countries from the East and the West came together in Seoul.

We need wisdom to continue this tradition in Pyeongchang. How about making the Pyeongchang Olympics an ongoing global peace festival?

The 1984 Winter Olympics was held in Sarajevo, the capital of the former Yugoslavia. Since then, the Sarajevo Winter Festival has been held every year. When the city was seized and civilians were killed during the 1992-95 Bosnian War, the memorial park in front of the Olympic Stadium was turned into a vast graveyard. But the winter festival was not canceled during the war.

To attend the festival, artists from around the world broke through the siege and came to Sarajevo. As they presented street performances, the winter festival became a peace festival. For the festival’s 30th anniversary, the Im Dong-chang Company was invited as the main guest and presented a traditional Korean music performance for the opening ceremony on Saturday.

Pyeongchang will host the Winter Olympics in the only divided country in the world, not far from the demilitarized zone, a symbol of that division. The Pyeongchang Olympics must differ from other events. We can make them an international peace festival with our will to overcome division and conflict.

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

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