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AFP
April 7, 2021

N. Korea says will not go to Olympics over Covid fears

Sports

AFP
April 7, 2021

SEOUL: North Korea will not attend this year’s Tokyo Olympics because of the coronavirus pandemic, Pyongyang’s sports ministry said, dashing Seoul’s hopes of using the Games to restart talks with its nuclear-armed neighbour.

The isolated North’s participation in the last Winter Games, hosted by the South in Pyeongchang, was a catalyst in the diplomatic rapprochement of 2018.

Pyongyang’s announcement extinguishes the possibility that the postponed Tokyo Games, due to begin in July, could kick off a reset in the now deadlocked talks process.

North Korea’s Olympic Committee “decided not to participate in the 32nd Olympic Games in order to protect players from the world public health crisis caused by Covid-19”, said the Sports in the DPR Korea website, run by the sports ministry in Pyongyang.

But analysts said other factors may have been at play.

The announcement — dated Monday — reported a meeting of the national Olympic committee on March 25.

The North’s official KCNA news agency had previously carried a dispatch on the committee meeting, without mentioning the Olympic decision.

All International Olympic Committee member countries are required to take part in each Games under the Olympic charter.

An IOC spokesperson told AFP that it had “not received any official application from the NOC of DPRK to be released from their obligation”.

The spokesperson added that “despite several requests” the North’s Olympic Committee had been unable to hold a conference call to discuss the coronavirus situation.