YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Koreas Discuss Forming Unified Team for Athens

May 16, 2003|Alan Abrahamson | Times Staff Writer

MADRID — International Olympic Committee members from North and South Korea said Thursday the two nations are engaged in serious talks aimed at fielding a joint team for the 2004 Athens Games.

A joint Korean team would be a first in Olympic history.

Chang Ung of North Korea said, "All these things are now on the agenda." Kim Un Yong of South Korea said, "Anything is possible." Kim also said a joint team would be "something historical," adding, "We hope, everybody hopes, it will contribute to collaboration, cooperation, rapprochement" on the Korean peninsula, divided into North and South since the end of World War II.

"We are thrilled," IOC President Jacques Rogge said, saying a joint team would offer a "very symbolic sign of what sport can offer to mankind."

The two Koreas marched together behind a unified flag in the opening ceremony at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and teams from the North and South have since marched together in ceremonies at a variety of other athletic competitions.

There was no joint march at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games. North Korea did not qualify enough athletes to send a team.

The possibility of a joint team emerged Thursday in the aftermath of informal presentations made to the IOC's ruling executive board by Pyeongchang, South Korea, and the two other cities vying for the 2010 Winter Games -- Vancouver, Canada, and Salzburg, Austria.

Kim and Chang made the disclosure at an impromptu meeting with a few reporters. Neither was involved in Pyeongchang's presentation to the executive board, which was pitched as the games of "purity and peace for all." Pyeongchang received a solid report from an IOC team that recently visited all three cities, but nonetheless remains the least known in Olympic circles.

"If Pyeongchang ever gets the Games, [North and South] could do many, many, many things together," Kim said.

Considerable detail remains to be worked out before a joint team in Athens becomes a reality -- including, again, the often-sensitive issue of qualifying athletes for the Games. Asked to rate the likelihood of a joint team on a scale of one to 10, Kim thought hard, then said with a smile, "Between one and 10."

Chang said, "We will do our best."

Los Angeles Times Articles