South Korea may be signaling relief following Russia’s decision not to boycott the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, despite the International Olympic Committee’s decision to ban the entire Russian team.
Following reports Russian President Vladimir Putin will allow the team to compete as neutral athletes, the administration of South Korea’s Moon Jae-in may be moving to encourage the full participation of Russian athletes, Yonhap reported Thursday.
The Winter Olympics are to be held in South Korea for the first time in 2018, but tensions with North Korea have dampened international enthusiasm for the event.
Late Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told Fox News U.S. participation in the Winter Games remains an “open question,” because of safety concerns.
“What we will do is make sure we are taking every precaution possible to make sure that [U.S. athletes are] safe and to know everything that’s going on around them,” Haley said on The Story with Martha MacCallum.
On Thursday, Seoul provided no comment on the U.S. diplomat’s statement.
The Winter Games have suffered some setbacks, owing to the IOC’s decision on Russia, and also a decision by the National Hockey League to block sending teams to the Olympics.
A South Korean presidential Blue House official who spoke to Yonhap said it would respect the IOC decision, but will take all measures necessary to prevent losses in ticket sales.
The official also said Seoul is making full use of diplomatic channels to make sure the Russian players are “fully supported” if they participate as neutral or private citizens.
Also at stake are ratings for television networks that have exclusive rights to Olympics coverage, the official said.
The time may also not be right to send a special envoy to North Korea to encourage North Korea’s participation in the Winter Games, according to the report.
By Elizabeth Shim