IOC confirm details of joint-Korean event on Olympic Day

LAUSANNE – The International Olympic Committee (IOC) have revealed more details of an event in Lausanne which is billed as part of sport’s role in the Korean peace process.

IOC President Thomas Bach revealed at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic debrief in Beijing this week that representatives from the National Olympic Committees of North Korea and South Korea would be invited to the Swiss city to mark Olympic Day.

Delegations from Japan and China – the next two Olympic hosts and neighbours of the Koreas – have also been invited while a mixed table tennis exhibition will be held.

This will feature players from all four countries, including China’s Rio 2016 Olympic gold medallists Ma Long and Ding Ning.

South Korea will be represented by Athens 2004 Olympic champion Seung Min Ryu, an IOC member, and double Olympic bronze medallist Kyungah Kim.

Song I Kim, a bronze medallist at Rio 2016 for North Korea, will also play alongside compatriot Sin Hyok Pak while Japan’s delegation will include 14-year-old Tomokazu Harimoto, the youngest-ever winner of a World Tour event in the sport.

London 2012 silver medallist Ai Fukuhara will also represent Japan.

The event in the Olympic capital will come after North Korea’s historic participation at the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics in the South in February.

Both countries marched together at the Opening Ceremony while a joint women’s ice hockey team was formed.

“This meeting is another step by Olympic sport to promote dialogue on and around the Korean peninsula,” said Bach.

“The joint march at the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Winter Games Pyeongchang 2018 showed the world the role that the Olympic Movement can play in opening the door to peace.

“Sport must continue to build bridges and show what it can do to bring people together.

“Japan and China will be the next hosts of the Olympic Games and Olympic Winter Games, and these mixed teams including athletes from North and South Korea, Japan and China, and the exhibition match, give us a glimpse of how sport can unite and make a contribution to changing the world through sport.”

Olympic Day is held every year on June 23 to mark the IOC’s formation in 1894 at the Sorbonne in Paris.

Bach has fully-backed the role of sport in improving Korean relations and has held discussions with both Southern President Moon Jae-in and the North’s counterpart Kim Jong-un.

It was announced this week that work is underway to help North Korean athletes qualify for both the Tokyo 2020 Summer and Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

A total of 22 athletes from North Korea competed at Pyeongchang 2018 after a four-party meeting in Lausanne led the way for their inclusion.

Kim had announced the secretive state’s intention to compete in a New Year’s Day address.

The build-up to the Games featured strained rhetoric between Kim and United States President Donald Trump over North Korea’s nuclear programme and missile launches.

The two leaders have since agreed to meet at a Summit in Singapore, however, amid an uneasy hope for denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.

Both Koreas are still technically at war as no peace treaty was signed after the Korean War in the 1950s.

Last month, a joint Korean team was formed mid-tournament at the International Table Tennis Federation Team World Championships in Halmstad in Sweden.

Women’s teams from both countries were due to play each other in the quarter-finals but they instead combined and went straight through to the last four.

Joint teams are also being discussed for this year’s Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang, while a combined side will compete at the East Asian Judo Championships in Mongolia this weekend.

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