Winter Olympics will break the ice on many fronts – from peace to technology
Kim Won-jin says the Winter Olympics at Pyeongchang takes its cue from the tradition of using sports for peace that characterised the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul. In addition, it will dazzle with the technology of the future
The Seoul Olympics made a strong impression on people around the world. During the Olympics in Seoul in September 1988, the autumn skies were exceptionally blue, imbued with bright energy.
Before that, the 1980 Moscow Olympics and the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, held in the midst of the antagonism at the height of the cold war, faced boycotts. The Seoul Olympics made a breakthrough in the fostering of world peace, with 160 countries taking part from all over the world, regardless of their beliefs and ideologies.
Thirty years later, with the threat of terrorism by extreme groups and conflicts on religious or ethnic grounds, the world still lives under the shadow of violence and the spectre of war. On the Korean peninsula, where peace lies on the edge of a sword despite desperate efforts, North Korea’s relentless pursuit of nuclear weapons and missile launches is also a cause of instability.
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Given this situation and the recent developments on the Korean peninsula, North Korea’s decision to have a dialogue with the South and to send its delegation to the Winter Olympics means that the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, along with its Olympic torch, enable us to reignite a spark of hope for peace and reconciliation on the Korean peninsula.
So far, the Korean government has dedicated untiring efforts to making the Pyeongchang Olympics a festival of world peace, beyond ensuring safety, by encouraging North Korea to participate in the Winter Olympics. For Koreans, this event has a special meaning because Korea was selected as a host for the Winter Olympics after three attempts.
Now, together with the hosting of the Winter Olympics, the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics, the 2002 World Cup and the 2011 Daegu World Masters Athletics Championships, Korea has become the fifth country to host the four major sports competitions.
In this sense, the Pyeongchang Olympics stands both as a symbol of national pride and of peace: an overwhelming opportunity to further emerge as a fully fledged developed country and at the same time a means to move further forward towards the lofty goal of peace that cannot be forgone in the midst of the reality of a separated South and North.
The Winter Olympics will be the second peace Olympics to be held at the site of the South-North Korea divide. Furthermore, it will be a celebration of sports and new technology: Pyeongchang will showcase the world’s first 5G service and hydrogen-fuelled self-driving vehicle during the event, following the successful demonstration of a hydrogen-fuelled car’s 190km autonomous drive from Seoul to Pyeongchang. In addition, around 500 cultural events will be held in venues in the vicinity of the stadiums throughout the Olympic period.
The Pyeongchang Olympics is becoming more and more a focal point of global attention as a record-breaking 2,925 athletes from 92 countries are expected to participate in the event, along with 26 heads of state from 21 countries.
North Korea has already sent a 46-member delegation comprising participants including the unified women’s ice hockey team, an art troupe and a cheering squad. The Olympic flame, which will burn bright until the end of the event, will shine even after the closing ceremony, continuing to generate momentum for peace on the Korean peninsula. The North also should not take lightly the window for dialogue that has been opened. North Korea should cooperate with the South so that the sports events will provide a new momentum for peace and cooperation on the peninsula.
It is my heartfelt hope that the Pyeongchang Olympics will play a role as a global sports festival for unity and peace. I also sincerely hope that the wishes and dreams of the Korean people and the international community will be fully fulfilled. Make hay while the sun shines.
Kim Won-jin is consul general of the Republic of Korea in Hong Kong