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Posted : 2014-01-29 15:48
Updated : 2014-01-29 15:48

North Korea to dispatch delegation to Olympics

Shaun White, in this Feb. 17, 2010, file photo, celebrates his gold medal in the men's snowboard halfpipe finals at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games. With the Sochi Games only eight days away, athletes all over the world are headed to the Russian city for their common goal: winning a
gold medal. / AP-Yonhap


By Kwon Ji-youn

North Korea plans to dispatch a political delegation to Russia to attend the opening ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympic Games, even though its athletes are barred from competing as "wild cards," a source in Moscow said Tuesday.

Yonhap News Agency quoted the source as having said that a delegation led by Kim Yong-nam, chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly of North Korea, will enter the Eurasian country prior to the Sochi Games, and will reside there until the opening ceremony is over.

The unprecedented move is considered a reflection of North Korea's intention to strengthen ties with Russia, as Kim's visit can be likened to a summit.

Andrew Mitchell, an International Olympic Committee spokesman, on Tuesday denied reports that the isolated country had requested its athletes be allowed to compete at the upcoming Winter Games as "wild cards."

Mitchell confirmed that the IOC does not provide wild cards for the Olympic Winter Games, slated for Feb. 7-23, and that all athletes must meet the qualification criteria. "Wild cards" are usually distributed to encourage the participation of developing countries in the Olympics. North Korea has participated in two Games and won two medals.

However, World Taekwondo Federation President Choue Chung-won had said on Jan. 24 that North Korea had expressed intentions to dispatch a delegation to Sochi whether or not its athletes were allowed to participate in the Games.

The move comes as other prominent figures, including U.S. President Barak Obama, French President Francois Hollande, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, have notified Russia they will not be at the Winter Olympics. Media agencies have reported that the absence of foreign politicians is a response to Russia's introduction of a law banning homosexuality promotion among youths.

The Associated Press reported Wednesday that in his State of the Union address, President Obama said the U.S. "believes in the equality of every human regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation, and that, "the world will see the U.S. commitment to universal dignity when the U.S. takes home gold medals on the Olympic Games."

Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe have confirmed that they will be present at the opening ceremony. South Korean Culture Minister Yoo Jin-yrong will also attend.


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