SOUTH Korea has moved to play down security concerns around next year’s Winter Olympics after issues were raised by a number of participating nations.
French sports minister Laura Flessel said last week that her country’s athletes would skip the competition in Pyeongchang if their safety could not be assured amid ongoing tension in the region.
Her views were quickly echoed by officials from Austria, with Olympic Committee chief Karl Stoss quoted as saying: “If the situation worsens and the security of our athletes is no longer guaranteed, we will not go to South Korea.”
Both have since clarified their original comments, with Flessel acknowledging France still plan to compete at the Games and Stoss saying he did not think the political situation would have any bearing on the 2018 Winter Olympics.
On Monday, the head of the Korean Sport & Olympic Committee, Lee Kee-heung, downplayed security concerns and said countries were unlikely to skip the competition.
According to the Korea Herald, Lee said while some countries may have reservations about sending their athletes to Pyeongchang – about 80km south of the border with North Korea – it does not mean they will skip the Games altogether.
“I know some people are worried about North Korea, but they’re not saying they won’t take part in the Olympics,” Lee said. “I think everyone will come.”
Security is a concern ahead of the first Winter Games to be held in South Korea, amid rising tensions over North Korea’s nuclear testing.
Lee said the South Korean government is working closely with the United Nations and the International Olympic Committee to ensure a peaceful Olympics.
The United States Olympic Committee, meanwhile, has said not one athlete has expressed security concerns about the Games.
“We are preparing as if we are going to go,” said CEO Scott Blackmun on Monday.
“We understand individual athletes may have questions and concerns but our job as the national Olympic committee for the United States is to make sure the athletes have an opportunity to go and are well supported by us while they are there.”