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North Korea agrees to PyeongChang Olympic talks with South Korea

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The rival Koreas agreed Friday to revive their first formal dialogue in more than two years on Tuesday to find ways to cooperate on the PyeongChang Olympics.

The announcement by Seoul’s Unification Ministry came hours after the United States said it has agreed to delay annual joint military exercises with South Korea until after the Winter Games.

On Friday morning, North Korea sent a message saying it would accept South Korea’s offer to meet at the border village of Panmunjom on Tuesday — one month before the Opening Ceremony — to discuss Olympic cooperation and how to improve overall ties, according to South Korea’s Unification Ministry.

Spokesman Baik Tae-hyun said he expects the two Koreas to exchange messages to determine who would head each other’s delegations and other issues.

It’s likely the North will agree to send a delegation to the Winter Olympics and refrain from provocations during the Games.

North Korea does not have any qualified athletes for the Games, but the International Olympic Committee can invite non-qualified athletes. Baik said North Korea is expected to hold talks with IOC officials next week.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said Monday that he was willing to send a delegation to the Olympics.

“The Winter Games to be held in South Korea will be a good occasion for the country,” Kim said Monday, according to Yonhap News Agency. “We sincerely hope that the Winter Olympics will be a success.

“We are ready to take various steps, including the dispatch of the delegation. To this end, the two Koreas can immediately meet.”

Kim’s overture was welcome news for a South Korean government led by liberal President Moon Jae-in, who favors dialogue to ease the North’s nuclear threats and wants to use the Olympics as a chance to improve inter-Korean ties.

Monday marked the first widely reported comments from Kim suggesting North Korea’s Olympic participation and discussions with South Korea on the matter.

In April, the governor of PyeongChang’s province reportedly said that a North Korean sports ministry official told him that North Korean athletes will be in PyeongChang.

In February, the North Korean member of the International Olympic Committee reportedly said he believed that a North Korean delegation would be at PyeongChang.

North Korea boycotted the only other Olympics held in South Korea, the Summer Games in Seoul in 1988.

Since, North Korean athletes have participated in major sporting events in South Korea, including the 2002 and 2014 Asian Games.

North Korea qualified its first athletes for PyeongChang in September — pairs figure skaters — but then missed a deadline to confirm use of those spots and lost them.

The IOC could extend a special invitation to the pairs skaters — or North Korean athletes in other sports — to join the Olympic field.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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IOC: ‘More exciting initiatives’ for Korean unity in PyeongChang

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Olympic organizers on Friday welcomed an agreement between North and South Korea to unite athletes at the PyeongChang Winter Games and promised that “much more exciting initiatives” promoting Korean unity will emerge this weekend.

“Watch this space,” International Olympic Committee presidential spokesman Mark Adams told The Associated Press in an interview, a day before a crucial meeting of Korean delegations at Olympics headquarters in Lausanne.

He declined to elaborate, saying the decisions would come Saturday.

Referring to a detailed peace-making agreement between the rival countries announced Thursday by South Korea’s Unification Ministry, including a joint team in the women’s hockey tournament, Adams said it was “great … but these are discussions” — meaning the IOC had not yet given the deal the final green light.

“I can tell you that there will also be some much more exciting initiatives coming through as well tomorrow,” he added.

Provided that the IOC finalizes the deal, it would mark the first time the two National Olympic Committees would be competing together in a single team.

Some have questioned the fine print of the agreement announced by the two Koreas, saying it gives the combined hockey squad a far larger roster than any other national team.

Asked how the IOC planned to maintain the integrity of the sport, Adams said: “People would say that these are exceptional circumstances, and we need exceptional measures.”

“This is about the Olympic spirit,” Adams added. “And the Olympic spirit is about nations competing, athletes competing, and we will do our best make sure that it sends a signal that sport can improve the world.”

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Julia Mancuso skis final race dressed as Wonder Woman (video)

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Julia Mancuso bid farewell like only she could — with a tiara, cape and Wonder Woman suit.

The most decorated female U.S. Olympic skier with four medals announced Friday morning that today’s World Cup downhill in Cortina d’Ampezzo would be the last race of her career.

More on Mancuso’s retirement, career and immediate future here.

She raced Friday as her nickname — “Super Jules” — and coasted to the bottom 18 seconds slower than winner Sofia Goggia.

Afterward, U.S. Ski Team members sprayed her with champagne and lifted her up in the finish corral.

Mancuso chose an appropriate venue for her last race.

She notched her first World Cup podium in Cortina in January 2006, then won the Olympic giant slalom in Sestriere, Italy, four weeks later.

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