News : Summer Games: North Korea refrains from participating in the Olympic Games in Tokyo – sport
Also in the Pyongyang online newspaper Sports in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea there is nothing that the regime of the North Korean party dictatorship does not want to read. The portal’s report on Tuesday that North Korea will not send a team to the Tokyo Olympics this summer due to coronavirus fears was therefore certainly not a revelation after underground journalistic research. The website is a state medium like any other public information source in the closed state of the ruler Kim Jong-un.
The regime wanted to announce what the National Olympic Committee (NOK) had allegedly decided on March 25 at a secret meeting. “At the meeting, the North Korea-NOK discussed the recommendations of its members and decided not to participate in the 32nd Olympic Games to protect athletes from the world health crisis caused by Covid-19,” reported Sport in the DPRK and thereby destroyed several hopes.
North Korea is the first country to cancel its Olympic participation in the second year of the pandemic. The withdrawal from the Summer Games, due to begin in Japan’s capital on July 23, should not make the Tocog Olympic Organizing Committee and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) overly sad. North Korea is not exactly a world power in sport. The country’s state television cannot afford expensive Olympic television rights. And the fewer people who participate, the safer the games become. “We will continue to prepare for the Games by working closely with the other organizations so that the athletes from every country and region can perform at their best,” said the Olympic Organizing Committee.
North Korea traditionally fights infectious diseases with a strict margin
Nevertheless, the news from Pyongyang was another blow to the value of Olympia as an occasion for international meetings. The South Korean government had hoped to be able to use the games for exchange in the frozen peace process on the divided Korean peninsula. Three years ago at the home winter games in Pyeongchang it worked out quite well. This time nothing will come of it. And you can’t even say that the decision is the overreaction of a wacky autocrat.
On the contrary, it makes sense. North Korea traditionally fights infectious diseases with a strict distance from any potential source of infection. The health system there is too weak to handle large disease outbreaks. For a year now, the regime has been isolating itself more consistently than ever. It even refrains from delivering food from international aid organizations so that no one introduces the coronavirus.
Many diplomats have left because life in Pyongyang is difficult to bear with its many restrictions. The success? North Korea’s government continues to claim before the World Health Organization that it has not yet had a Covid-19 case in the country. And because it should stay that way, the Olympic team has to stay at home. Because with all the assurances of the Japanese government and the IOC that safety and hygiene are the most important issues in the preparation of the huge event – nobody can be one hundred percent sure that the Olympic facilities will not become a virus cluster after all.
According to the organizers’ current playbooks, the hygiene concept of the games provides for international players, media workers and officials to be kept away from the Japanese population so that they are protected. In North Korea one could understand this to mean that infection protection within the Olympic facilities is less strict. But North Korea cannot afford to take risks. If the Olympic team brought in the virus, the country could fall into a deadly crisis that Kim Jong-un could no longer gloss over, even with the most polished propaganda. So North Korea’s athletes have to give up their dream of stepping out into the wide world of sport.
There are no compromises to the logic of dictators. When something doesn’t fit, they make painful decisions. In this respect, the decision from Pyongyang is unmasking for the Olympic project in Tokyo. Other nations could follow. IOC President Thomas Bach negotiated with the Chinese government that they would deliver vaccines for athletes. But China’s vaccines are not approved everywhere. In particular, poorer countries with poor health systems are likely to fear that the Olympics with around 11,000 athletes from all over the world will spark the pandemic.