Two Koreas spar over Olympic Games
Negotiations between parties not on speaking terms are never easy, and meetings between the two Koreas here this week were no exception. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) presided Tuesday and Wednesday over a delicate session to determine which sports events might be held where for the 1988 Summer Olympic Games.
The outcome of these talks, IOC spokeswoman Michele Verdier says, will have important repercussions for the Olympic Games' future. ``If we succeed, it shows good faith toward the movement. It also shows our ability ... to encourage a rapprochement. If we can get a dialogue going between two groups who never really talk, it will bode well for future cooperation.''
This week's meeting was the fourth since 1985 and the most significant because it is the last attempt to resolve the co-hosting issue before September when the IOC sends official invitations to the games. The talks, says Ms. Verdier, are ``the first time the two countries have met outside Korea, in an international context.'' (Past Red Cross negotiations have dealt with bilateral Korean relations).
So far the results of the talks seem inconclusive. IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch says he is optimistic about IOC's ``goal [which is] to have all the National Olympic Committees, every country, participate.'' Yesterday, the IOC proposed its ``final offer'' - that North Korea host seven events. Mr. Samaranch said the two nations have until September to accept the offer. The IOC, he added, would not discuss related issues such as TV rights in North Korea, or the free flow of athletes and journalists until ``we have full agreement from the two Koreas.'' The North Korean National Olympic Committee president said the offer was unacceptable but conceded it was ``approaching our proposal.''
If North Korea accepts the offer, it will be the first time two countries have shared hosting duties for the games. The idea for this unprecedented situation arose at a 1985 IOC meeting when North Korea suggested that some events for the 1988 games should be held in its capital. It insisted that it host eight events and share the opening ceremony. South Korea's reaction was negative.
In 1981, it was decided that the games would be held in South Korea. But the IOC feared the games would be boycotted as they were in 1976 and 1984.
IOC is concerned not only about a potential boycott but also about the recent turmoil in South Korean politics. This week, Samaranch denied rumors that the IOC had made tentative deals with other cities to host the games in case of continuing political instability in South Korea. ``The games will be held in Seoul or not at all,'' he stated.