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Winter Olympics: IOC extends deadline for North Korea

North Korea has said it wants to send a delegation to the Games in South Korea

Pictured: Pyeongchang is gearing up to host the Winter Olympics (IOC/CHUNG SUNG-JUN)

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has extended the deadline for registration of North Korean athletes for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics following a diplomatic breakthrough.

The decision follows the opening of talks between North Korea and South Korea, designed to ease tensions on the peninsula stemming from Pyonyang’s nuclear and missile programme.

On the first day of the talks, being held at Panmunjom "peace village" in the demilitarised zone (DMZ) at the border, North Korea said it would be sending a delegation to the Games.

The IOC, which wants to see North Korean athletes compete, did not did not specify a cut-off date for registration, but most sports have completed their Olympic qualifying events.

Only a figure skating pair from North Korea has secured a spot in the Games, in February, although several other athletes could qualify should the Olympic body make special provisions.

An IOC spokesman said: “The IOC has been having discussions with both sides for a long time.  In doing so we have kept the door open by extending the deadline for registration, and by offering support to North Korean athletes in the qualification process, whilst respecting UN sanctions.”

“The IOC will at very short notice continue its talks with all the parties concerned so that we can take the necessary decisions about participation and the format of any participation in due time,” the IOC spokesman said. The IOC’s mission is always to ensure the participation of all qualified athletes, beyond all political tensions and divisions.

“With regard to the very particular situation on the Korean peninsula we need the political commitment from all parties concerned to make such a participation possible. Once this political commitment is clear the IOC will take the final decision.”

At a press conference in London last year Soo Jung, president of Korea Tourism Organisation, said South Korea was among the safest countries to visit, pointing out there was no history of attacks on tourists. He said: "I believe this process of the event will contribute ultimately to terminate the tension in the Korean peninsula."

A spokesman for Seoul Tourism Organisation said: "Based on the outcome of the meeting of North and South Korean diplomats, we have high hopes for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics that will be held next month. 

"Should the PyeongChang Winter Olympics be hosted successfully, including the participation of our special guests from North Korea, it will be evidence that South Korea as a whole is capable of hosting and managing events to the highest standards, while there is no need to worry about safety. 

"Seoul is  likely to benefit from the Games since a lack of accommodation in PyeongChang will drive event spectators to stay in Seoul. Not just the spectators, but also corporate sponsors who fly in to support their teams or other related travels. We are talking to insurance incentive groups to time their program with the Games as a way of fulfilling CSR or team-building objectives."

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