Pyeongchang 2018

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North Korean athletes can cross DMZ for PyeongChang Olympics

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North Korean athletes are welcome to travel through the demilitarized zone for the Winter Olympics in February, PyeongChang 2018 president Hee-Beom Lee reportedly said Thursday.

“South Korea will welcome North Korea, and when they decide to come the South Korean government will allow them to come by road, and when they have supporting teams the Korean government will allow them to come by ship,” Lee said in London, according to Reuters. “All nations are very welcome, including North Korea and Russia. We want it to be the peace Games.”

When North Korean athletes compete in South Korea, they typically fly through Beijing, according to Yonhap News.

North and South Korea have been divided by the DMZ buffer since the Korean War ended in 1953. It stretches 250 miles long and is 2 1/2 miles wide, with armed troops on both sides.

However, North Korea is not assured of qualifying any athletes for the Winter Games. It had two athletes at Vancouver 2010 and none at Sochi 2014.

It boycotted the previous Olympics in South Korea in Seoul in 1988, but North and South Korean officials have been quoted saying North Korea plans to participate in PyeongChang.

North Korea’s best chance at qualifying may come in pairs figure skating, if its promising team is entered in the final Olympic qualifier in Germany in September.

“With or without qualification we are still talking with the International Olympic Committee and the relevant international federations for North Korea to participate,” Lee said Thursday, according to the BBC.

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PyeongChang Olympic torch relay route (video)

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The PyeongChang Olympic torch relay will stop at an island off the Korean Peninsula coast before its comprehensive trek through South Korea’s major cities and provinces.

Winter Games organizers published a video outlining the torch relay route that will begin Oct. 24 with the ceremonial flame lighting in Olympia, Greece, the birthplace of the ancient Olympic Games.

The flame will fly from Greece to Incheon International Airport near Seoul before jetting for a stop in Jeju, the largest of more than 3,000 islands off the southern coast of South Korea.

It will go from Jeju to the southeastern port of Busan, the second-largest city in South Korea.

The flame will then head west and north. It will visit Seoul closer to the end of the relay. It will culminate in PyeongChang on Feb. 9, with the lighting of the Olympic cauldron at the Opening Ceremony.

The relay will include 7,500 torch bearers, visiting 17 cities and provinces over 101 days.

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IIHF president hopes NHL changes its mind over 2018 Olympics

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PARIS (AP) — The NHL still has a couple more months to reverse its decision and opt to participate in next year’s Olympics in South Korea.

International Ice Hockey Federation President Rene Fasel said Tuesday his organization was in contact with the National Hockey League Players’ Association two or three times per week, hoping to work out a solution that will bring the sport’s biggest stars to Pyeongchang.

“I would say the latest we can do is end of June, beginning of July, for calendars, schedules, arenas,” Fasel said at a news conference during the hockey worlds. “We will see.”

Fasel, who is Swiss, also said he plans to call NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, but he didn’t seem too enthusiastic about his chances.

“I have a very good relation with Gary. But what can I say? I have nothing to give him,” Fasel said. “I can say ‘Hello, how are you? Great playoffs.’ Just social talk. Maybe I come to New York, we have a steak and go back. This is the way it is.

“The puck is for sure on the stick of the NHL Players’ Association and we will see.”

Last month, the NHL announced that it will not stop its season to allow players to compete at the Feb. 9-25 Olympics for the first time in 20 years.

“I’m a very positive person so I never give up, and there is still some time where maybe we can convince Gary Bettman to change his opinion,” Fasel said.

The NHL has not decided whether to allow teams to make decisions on a case-by-case basis. It was not immediately clear how the United States, Canada and other countries will fill Olympic rosters, though national federations have already begun planning.

“We played before without the NHL, we will have anyway a great tournament. But it would be so much better with the best players in the world,” Fasel said. “The players want to go, so I really don’t understand.

“But if Gary decides not to go to the Olympics, the fans will not be happy, the players will not be happy, I hope (the) media won’t be happy. The whole world will not be happy.”

Skipping the Olympics in Pyeongchang would be a huge mistake, Fasel said, in terms of growing hockey in Asia.

“There is a unique opportunity for our sport to show up there, a unique opportunity for the NHL to be there,” said Fasel, who is also a long-standing IOC member. “We are in discussion with the IOC. We have internally our discussion and we try and make a snowball, a package that maybe we can go to Gary (with) and say ‘Listen, Gary: Yes or no?’

“There is nothing bigger and more important. We don’t have a better platform for our sport than the Olympic Winter Games. Three billion people watching.”

NHL stars like Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin, Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews and New York Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist have all spoken out strongly in favor of taking part.

The NHL’s stance, if unchanged, would put Russia in a dominant position.

Russia is home to the Kontinental Hockey League, widely regarded as the strongest outside North America. Taking a schedule break for the Olympics is easier for the KHL, which already shapes its season to accommodate the world championships and national-team warmups.

“What we will do for sure if the NHL isn’t coming is that we will work in China, in the KHL,” Fasel said. “That will give the space to the Russian and the non-Russian clubs to be present in Asia.”

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