Olympic jittersDark clouds are hanging over the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics. The International Olympic Committee has banned Russia from participating in the biggest winter sports event on charges of orchestrating the large-scale doping of its athletes on the state level. On top of that, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said that the United States’ participation is not determined yet due to safety reasons from the North Korean nuclear problem.
The United States and Russia are the two major powers in the Winter Games. If both countries decide to sit out the event, the PyeongChang Olympic Organizing Committee will certainly face serious trouble. Despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s suggestion of Russian athletes’ participating in the Olympics on an individual level — and even though the likelihood of the United States shunning the games is low — the 23rd Winter Olympics is teetering on the brink of crisis with two months left until the opening ceremony on Feb. 9, 2018.
Needless to say, a drug-free, peaceful and safe Olympic Games are very important. Nevertheless, the current reality in which the two winter sports superpowers mention the possibility of not participating or participating in a strange way rings alarm bells about our sports diplomacy.
Foreign media outlets, including the BBC, are running stories about a possible deal between the IOC and Russia. In other words, the IOC could have taken the decision of banning Russia from joining the Winter Games as a way to allow its participation in the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo. If that’s true, the PyeongChang Winter Olympics could be serving as sort of a scapegoat for a more profitable Summer Olympics two years away.
We wonder what our government has been doing to reassure the United States of a safe Olympics. Where is our sports diplomacy despite the government’s repeated assurance that it has been doing its best? Has the government failed to read the unfriendly international undercurrents after being overly engrossed in encouraging North Korea to come?
It’s not too late. The Moon Jae-in administration must exert all efforts for the successful staging of the Games. A final decision on the Russian athletes is to be made Tuesday.
Our government must do its best to persuade the Russian government, people and athletes to come to the sports gala by defeating a Russian movement to boycott the Olympics. At the same time, the government must dispel growing global concerns about the games through close security cooperation with the United States.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 11, Page 38