South Korea well prepared if North Korea attends Olympics: Organisers

Travellers looking at an information board for a new high-speed train line for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games, at Seoul station on Dec 22, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (AFP) - Host South Korea is well prepared should North Korea decide to take part in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, with a cruise ship ready to transport and accommodate its athletes, organisers said on Wednesday (Jan 3).

Lee Hee Beom, head of the 2018 Olympic organising committee, said they had long been preparing for the North's attendance at what he described as the "largest-ever winter festival in history".

"We're making preparations in case North Korea sends not only its athletes but a cheering squad and support staff as well," Lee said.

"The International Olympic Committee has also said several times that it would support North Korea's participation," Lee added.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said in a new year speech that his country wished success for the Olympics, to be held from Feb 9-25, and would consider sending a delegation.

Kim also announced the reopening of a hotline with the South to discuss attending the Olympics, as a "significant first step" in improving ties.

Seoul and organisers have billed the Winter Games as a "peace Olympics" and have been keen for the North to take part.

But the main venues are just 80km from the heavily fortified border and the build-up to the event has been overshadowed by high tensions over the North's nuclear and missile tests.

Governor Choi Moon Soon of Gangwon province, where the event is sited, has said the province is willing to send a cruise ship to the North to take its delegation to the South's port of Sokcho near the Olympic venues.

Choi said he had made the offer to a North Korean official, who reacted positively and promised to convey it to leader Kim.

"A cruise ship will be a convenient solution to the problems with security and lodging," the governor said.

When the North attended the 2002 Asian Games in the South's port city of Busan, its delegation arrived on a cruise ship and used it as a floating hotel during the event.

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