Royalty, VIPs coming to PyeongChang

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Royalty, VIPs coming to PyeongChang


Cadets from the Korean Army, Navy and Air Force academies celebrate the upcoming PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games on the amphibious assault ship Dokdo last Sunday in the South Sea. The final symbols the cadets form are the PyeongChang Olympics logo. [YONHAP]

The Blue House announced Monday that 26 heads of states and top-level foreign dignitaries from 21 countries are scheduled to attend the PyeongChang Olympics, which kick off in Gangwon next week and are expected to be the largest Winter Games to date.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is the only leader from the four major regional powers - also including the United States, China and Russia - to attend the Games, which kick off on Feb. 9. President Moon Jae-in will hold a summit with Abe during the Japanese prime minister’s visit.

Spearheading the U.S. delegation is Vice President Mike Pence, announced by the White House earlier this month, while Chinese President Xi Jinping will send as a special envoy Han Zheng, a member of the Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee, the nation’s top decision-making body and the Shanghai party secretary.

Nam Gwan-pyo, second deputy chief of the presidential National Security Office, said in a briefing Monday that the following VIPs will be coming to Korea as well: King Carl Gustaf XVI of Sweden, Prime Minister of Norway Erna Solberg, Polish President Andrzej Duda, Prime Minister of Finland Juha Sipila, Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte, Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid, Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis, Slovakia President Andrej Kiska, Swiss President Alain Berset, Liechtenstein Prime Minister Adrian Hasler, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Canadian Governor General Julie Payette and Slovenian President Borut Pahor.

In addition, Crown Prince of Denmark Frederik, Monaco’s Prince Albert and Grand Duke of Luxembourg Henri will be attending as members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), as will UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

Nam said 16 leader-level dignitaries are scheduled to attend the opening ceremony at the PyeongChang Olympic Stadium and that President Moon will hold summits or have lunch or dinner meetings with leaders and top-level officials from 14 countries, including Germany and Slovenia.

Moon will also hold a reception for the foreign dignitaries on Feb. 9, the day of the opening ceremony.

This will be the largest Winter Olympics in history, with 2,943 athletes from 92 countries expected to participate, according to the Blue House

The Winter Olympics, held from Feb. 9 to 25, will be hosted in the northeastern Pyeongchang and Jeongseon counties and the city of Gangneung in Gangwon. The Paralympic Games run from March 9 to 18. The PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (Pocog) said that as of Monday 2,925 from 92 countries have registered. This compares to 2,858 athletes from 88 countries that attended Russia’s Sochi Olympics in 2014.

South Korea will have its largest-ever team for this Winter Olympics, with 144 athletes participating.

The United States will send 242 athletes, the largest team from any country in the history of the Winter Olympics, followed by Canada and Norway.

The IOC likewise has approved a group of 22 North Korean athletes to compete. In the opening ceremony, the two Koreas will march under a white “unification” flag with a blue silhouette of the Korean Peninsula in the middle. They will wear matching uniforms.

It has not yet been confirmed if Chinese President Xi will attend the Games, leaving open the possibility that he may attend the closing ceremony.

Moon also has extended an invitation to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has yet to respond. The International Olympic Committee last week issued invitations to 169 Russian athletes who can compete as neutrals - as Olympic athletes from Russia - following its ban from the event for doping at the 2014 Sochi Games.

Nam said, “We look forward to a high-level Russian official also attending.”

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