S. Korea quells security fears over Winter Games

SEOUL • South Korea has promised that next year's Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang will be safe after some nations suggested they may skip the event if tensions over North Korea's nuclear ambitions worsen.

The Pyeongchang Games will be held from Feb 9-25, only 80km from the heavily guarded border.

French and Austrian officials last week raised the prospect of not sending athletes as the United States and North Korean leaders intensified their war of words.

The South Korean foreign ministry played down the security fears yesterday, saying it is working through diplomatic channels to reassure the participants.

"The South Korean government is doing its utmost to ensure that the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and Paralympics will be safe," said ministry spokesman Noh Kyu Duk.

"As of now, no country has officially said it will not participate."

On Monday, American athletes preparing for the Winter Olympics called for tough sanctions against Russia, voicing fears cheats could escape punishment over the doping scandal from the 2014 Sochi Games.

Lowell Bailey, the first US world biathlon champion with a 20km crown earlier this year, and Susan Dunklee, the first US woman on a world podium with a 12.5km mass start runner-up effort, were outspoken as the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) began a visit to observe Russian anti-doping efforts.

"Maintaining integrity is the path we have to stand on," Dunklee said. "Russia has taken part in state-sponsored doping. They've destroyed all the evidence and they're getting away with everything they did."

Bailey said he was "discouraged" by the slow pace of Wada and International Olympic Committee probes and said "meaningful outcomes" are needed if the 2015 McLaren report on state-sponsored doping in Russia at the 2014 Winter Olympics is true.

"I don't think you can let that go without a penalty. To do so would be to embolden those actors that think doping is a means to achieve success," Bailey said. "It needs to be a harsh enough penalty."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 27, 2017, with the headline 'S. Korea quells security fears over Winter Games'. Print Edition | Subscribe