IOC chief Thomas Bach to visit North Korea after PyeongChang Olympics

The International Olympic Committee spends days and nights dreaming about leaving a positive political legacy. It spends thousands of marketing dollars and hundreds of hours spreading the narrative that it, as an organization, exists for a greater good. That it brings nations together through the power of sport. And in 2018, it has stumbled upon a potential crown jewel: the Koreas.

North and South Korea seem to have found a convenient stage for diplomacy, the PyeongChang Olympics. And now IOC president Thomas Bach is seemingly ready to milk that diplomacy for all its worth. Or perhaps he genuinely believes he can help strengthen the relationship between the two technically-at-war nations. Or both.

Bach, one day after an IOC member said the unified Korean hockey team should be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, announced he would travel to North Korea after the conclusion of the Games. Per Reuters, it’s part of an agreement between North Korea, South Korea and the IOC.

“All the parties concerned have welcomed this invitation to North Korea,” Bach told Reuters. “We are talking about this convenient date in order to continue the dialogue on the sports side. We will see when this is going to happen.”

The North, infamously isolated under a brutal dictatorship, had seemingly planned to boycott the Games, which are being held a few miles south of the Korean border. After all, the two Koreas have technically been at war for over a half-century. Their leaders have only met twice since.

But then came the first official talks between the two nations in nearly two years. Then came a meeting with the IOC. Then came an agreement to march together under a unified Korean flag at the Opening Ceremony, and to field a joint hockey team featuring athletes from both nations. South Korean president Moon Jae-in shook hands with Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, at the opening ceremony. Bach then posed for photos with the two and other dignitaries at the unified hockey team’s first game.

Thomas Bach attended the unified Korean hockey team’s first Olympic game with leaders from both North and South Korea. (Getty)s
Thomas Bach attended the unified Korean hockey team’s first Olympic game with leaders from both North and South Korea. (Getty)s

There have been other amicable displays as well, leading to concerns that North Korea is attempting to hijack the Games for political purposes, essentially as propaganda. United States Vice President Mike Pence raised those concerns before the Games.

But Bach pushed back on them. “This is about sport and this the IOC made very clear,” he told AFP. “This is about the role of sport to build bridges, to open doors and nothing more.”

What exactly the outcome of this sporting relationship will be is unclear. What exactly Bach hopes to accomplish in North Korea after the Olympics is also unclear. What is clear is that he’d much rather talk about the Korean peace than Russian doping.

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