Olympics: Winter Games can 'unite' South Korea, says Thomas Bach

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach (right) visiting the athletes’ village under constructions in Pyeongchang on March 15, 2017.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach (right) visiting the athletes’ village under constructions in Pyeongchang on March 15, 2017. PHOTO: AFP/POCOG

Pyeongchang, South Korea (AFP) - Olympics chief Thomas Bach on Wednesday said next year's Pyeongchang Winter Olympics can "unite" South Korea after its political turmoil, adding that he hoped the North will take part despite soaring regional tensions.

Bach, visiting the mountain resort which will host the Games next February, said he had been assured of cross-party support for the event after the impeachment of president Park Geun Hye in a corruption scandal.

North Korea's bellicose nuclear posturing and Chinese anger at the deployment of a US missile defence system in South Korea have added to an unsettled atmosphere in East Asia.

But Bach said he had no concerns about the 2018 Games after meeting the acting president and parliamentary speaker in Seoul on Tuesday.

"We could hear and feel the great support which is going across all political borders," the International Olympic Committee (IOC) president told reporters.

"Because the Koreans feel... that these Games are a good opportunity for Korea to unite again and be united also in support of their athletes," he added.

"Because now the country is going through a difficult period of many political divisions."

While Park was ousted over an influence-peddling scandal, nuclear-armed North Korea also launched four ballistic missiles this month in its latest provocative test.

Despite enduring tensions between the two Koreas, who remain technically at war, Bach expressed hopes that the North - which boycotted the 1988 Seoul Olympics - will take part.

The South's political leaders had agreed that the Olympics will be "open to everybody", he said, when asked about North Korea.

"This is the mission of the Olympic Games, to welcome the world," said Bach. "The political tensions in the region will play no role in this.

"This is the philosophy of the Games. And also in this respect I've no doubt that Korea will deliver and will offer its great hospitality for everybody."