When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Curling in PyeongChang on Feb. 8
Curling in PyeongChang on Feb. 8

-Analysis-

The PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games finally kicked off Thursday with the riveting-if-baffling sport of curling and a first victory for hosts South Korea. But all eyes will be on the official opening ceremony tomorrow, especially since a disproportionate dose of the attention for this edition will be focused off the ice and snow.

Coming in the wake of nuclear threats between the U.S. and North Korea, South Korean President Moon Jae-in has been touting the Games as the "Peace Olympics." Athletes from the North and South will be marching together, under a blue-and-white flag representing a united Korea, for the first time since the Asian Winter Games of 2007. In addition, the women's ice-hockey squad will be the first ever combined Korean Olympic team.

Word also came this week that Kim Yo-jung, North Korea leader Kim Jong-un's sister, will be part of a high-level Olympic delegation at tomorrow'sceremonies, making her the first member of North Korea's ruling family to visit the South since the end of the Korean War in 1953. Ms. Kim is expected to meet with President Moon on Saturday. All of this seemed unthinkable just a few weeks ago, when Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump were busy boasting about their buttons.

Could sports really pave the way for lasting peace between two countries still technically at war with each other? It was the dream of Pierre de Coubertin, the father of modern Olympic Games, that "athleticism" would help harmony between nations, eager as he was to rekindle the spirit of the Ancient Olympic Games.

Tantamount to a Trojan Horse tactic.

But as Julien Sorez, a French sports historian, notes in an article published in Le Figaro, the "sacred truce" between Ancient Greek cities was actually respected "less for moral reasons than geopolitical ones, namely to allow athletes to travel between the cities." More than two millennia later, little has changed, and Olympic Games are at least as much a "geopolitical weapon" now as they used to be.

Writing in the South China Morning Post, David Josef Volodzko argued that the presence of North Korean pop singers in the South for the celebrations was tantamount to a Trojan Horse tactic, and "likely to be the first of many soft-power salvoes aimed at stealing the South's limelight." Others, meanwhile, have noted that the North's PR operation is made easier by the fact that PyeongChang and Pyongyang (the North's capital) are such similar names that you could easily get confused and believe the Games are actually taking place in North Korea.

Writing in The Korean Times this morning, Seoul-based writer Ned Forney also denounces what he says has "become a geopolitical event so hijacked and manipulated that the athletes seem to be only a sideshow." He adds: "History books years from now may record the next few weeks as the calm before the storm. I hope not, but unless I've totally misread Kim Jong-un and his regime, North Korea has no intention of living peacefully with its neighbor to the South, or any other country."

In Le Figaro, Sorez writes that "the risk is to see what we'd like to see. In 1936, the fact that the Nazis had hosted the 1936 Olympics had reassured part of the public opinion." And we all know how that ended.

Hopefully, history won't repeat itself in the geopolitical arena. Curling is anyone's guess.

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!

2022 Kharkiv Pride Parade

Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra, Sophia Constantino and Lila Paulou

Welcome to Worldcrunch’s LGBTQ+ International. We bring you up-to-speed each week on a topic you may follow closely at home, but can now see from different places and perspectives around the world. Discover the latest news on everything LGBTQ+ — from all corners of the planet. All in one smooth scroll!

This week featuring:

Keep reading...Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
  • $2.90/month or $19.90/year. No hidden charges. Cancel anytime.
Already a subscriber? Log in
Writing contest - My pandemic story
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch VideoShow less
MOST READ