AP

North Korea to send delegation to PyeongChang Olympics, South says

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea agreed Tuesday to send a delegation to the PyeongChang Olympics, Seoul officials said, as the bitter rivals sat for rare talks at the border to discuss how to cooperate in the Olympics and improve their long-strained ties.

The Koreas’ first talks in two years were arranged after North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un recently made an abrupt push for improved ties with South Korea after a year of elevated tensions with the outside world over his expanding nuclear and missile programs.

During the talks, the North Korean delegation said it would send an Olympic delegation, which includes officials, athletes, cheerleaders, journalists and others, South Korea’s Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung told reporters, according to media footage from the border village of Panmunjom, the venue for the talks.

The South Korean delegation, for its part, proposed North Korea send a big delegation and conduct a joint march during the Opening and Closing Ceremonines (Feb. 9 and Feb. 25), Chun, one of the five South Korean negotiators, said.

North Korea responded by saying the two Koreas must try to promote peace and reconciliation through dialogue, he said.

The International Olympic Committee said in a statement that it “warmly welcomes” the agreed-upon proposals.

“These proposals mark a great step forward in the Olympic spirit,” IOC president Thomas Bach said.

The IOC will discuss possible North Korean Olympic participation, including competing athletes, once receiving official reports and proposals from Tuesday’s meeting between the North and South.

North Korea does not currently have any qualified athletes for the Winter Games. North Korea did qualify a pairs figure skating team in September but lost the spot by not registering by an Oct. 31 deadline.

The IOC can extend a special invitation to those figure skaters to be added to the Olympic field.

The two sides were to continue their negotiations later Tuesday at Panmunjom, the only place on the tense border where North and South Korean soldiers are just feet away from each other.

The meeting began with an amicable atmosphere Tuesday morning, with chief North Korean delegate Ri Son Gwon saying he hopes the talks would give “a New Year’s first gift — precious results (of the talks) to the Korean nation.”

 

 

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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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