France 'Could Skip Olympics If N.Korean Threat Continues'

By Chang Min-seok, Seok Nam-jun | September 25, 2017 12:31

France could skip the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea if the standoff with North Korea gets worse, its Sports Minister Laura Flessel said last Thursday.

"We will never put our team in danger," Flessel told a radio interviewer. "If it gets worse and we do not have their security confirmed, our French team will stay here."

Flessel later backtracked, saying she was merely talking in principle and added that she has not yet considered that option.

French Sports Minister Laura Flessel (left) talks with IOC President Thomas Bach in Marseilles, France on Thursday. /AP-Yonhap

South Korean Sports Minister Do Jong-whan told the National Assembly on Friday that Seoul "needs to publicize the safety of the games here."

He admitted that nobody has any inkling whether North Korea will take part in the games, adding "details of the North's participation" could materialize in December.

Vice sports minister Roh Tae-kang, who visited the U.S. to promote the Olympics, told reporters inter-Korean exchanges have always been overshadowed by provocations, and the North often took part in a last-minute decision. He added there is a "strong possibility" of North Korean athletes participating in the winter games.

But North Korea must qualify to participate in the Olympics next February. The North won no berth in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, and the situation may well be the same this year. It has the strongest chance of qualifying in the figure skating pairs with Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik and is also trying to qualify for the short track and cross country events.

North Korean IOC member Chang Ung said recently that the country's athletes are "practicing to qualify," which suggests they would turn up if they did.

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