PyeongChang can prove the transformative power of Olympics

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The location of next month’s Winter Olympics couldn’t be more apt, NBC Olympics president of production and programming Jim Bell writes in USA Today.

“The most heavily fortified border in the world, abutting one of its most isolated regimes, and with two countries still technically at war, should bear witness to the most peaceful, unifying event the planet has to offer,” Bell wrote.

“The Olympics have never been merely about sporting events; they’ve also been a powerful reminder of what the world can be: citizens of the planet, coming together, to experience different cultures devoid of judgment or hatred.”

North Korea and South Korea had their first formal dialogue in more than two years on Tuesday. It was about the Olympics.

It resulted in the North planning to send a delegation to the PyeongChang Winter Games, which start Feb. 8 on NBC.

The details could be hammered out at a proposed Jan. 20 meeting among officials from both Koreas and the International Olympic Committee.

It’s a marketed change from 30 years ago, when South Korea hosted its first Olympics, the Summer Games in Seoul.

“Roughly a year before those Games, South Korea was reborn as an open society and democratic state, with its first directly elected president, and a new range of social norms, from civil rights to a free press,” Bell wrote. “The Olympics introduced this new South Korea to the world and now, 30 years later, the Olympics are returning.”

North Korea boycotted in 1988.

But athletes from the two Koreas since showed solidarity at major international sporting events.

The nations marched together under the blue-and-white Korea “unification” flag at the 2000 and 2004 Olympic Opening Ceremonies in Sydney and Athens.

In Rio, North and South Korean gymnasts posed for a selfie together. And North Korea did compete in the two Asian Games hosted by South Korea in the last 30 years, in 2002 and 2014.

There will be many other highlights from these Games.

U.S. stars like Mikaela ShiffrinNathan ChenLindsey Vonn and Shaun White. International stories like the Nigerian women’s bobsled team. And others uncovered as competition plays out.

“Cynical detractors can often outshout thoughtful critics, and the Olympics make a convenient target,” Bell wrote. “Perhaps this winter, as the world returns to this critically important peninsula, there will be a de-escalation of tensions and a renewed emphasis on hope and cooperation. Warts and all, the Olympics may turn out to be the best vehicle for such an essential transformation.”

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MORE: Breakdown of NBC record hours of PyeongChang programming

South Korea’s first gold medalist of 2018 PyeongChang Olympics to compete for China

Lim Hyo-Jun
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Lim Hyo-Jun, a short track speed skater who won South Korea’s first gold medal of the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics, has been cleared to skate for China and was reportedly named to the national team Monday.

Lim, who won the 1500m on the first day of medal competition at the PyeongChang Games, began the process of switching to China after a June 2019 incident where he pulled down a teammate’s trousers, leaving him standing, exposed, in front of female teammates.

Lim, the 2019 World overall champion, was banned from the team for a year and later found guilty of sexual harassment before the verdict was overturned on appeal.

It was reported in March 2021 that Lim was in the process of trying to gain Chinese nationality to compete at the Beijing Winter Olympics, but Lim was not cleared to switch by the International Skating Union until this July. His Chinese name is Lin Xiaojun.

Another star South Korean skater, triple 2006 Olympic gold medalist Ahn Hyun-Soo, switched to Russia after not making the 2010 Olympic team. He then won three golds for the host nation as Viktor Ahn at the 2014 Sochi Games.

China’s national team for the upcoming season reportedly does not include veterans Wu Dajing, the nation’s lone gold medalist across all sports at the 2018 Olympics, and Fan Kexin, a three-time Olympic medalist.

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Brigid Kosgei, world record holder, to miss London Marathon

Brigid Kosgei
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World record holder Brigid Kosgei withdrew before Sunday’s London Marathon due to a right hamstring injury that has bothered her for the last month.

“My training has been up and down and not the way I would like to prepare to be in top condition,” was posted on Kosgei’s social media. “We’ve decided it’s best I withdraw from this year’s race and get further treatment on my injuries in order to enter 2023 stronger than ever.”

Kosgei, a 28-year-old Kenyan mother of twins, shattered the world record by 81 seconds at the 2019 Chicago Marathon. She clocked 2:14:04 to smash Brit Paula Radcliffe‘s record from 2003.

Since, Kosgei won the 2020 London Marathon, took silver at the Tokyo Olympics, placed fourth at the 2021 London Marathon and won this past March’s Tokyo Marathon in what was then the third-fastest time in history (2:16:02).

Ethiopian Tigist Assefa moved into the top three by winning the Berlin Marathon last Sunday in 2:15:37.

The London Marathon women’s field includes Kenyan Joyciline Jepkosgei, a winner in New York City (2019) and London (2021), and Yalemzerf Yehualaw, who was the Ethiopian record holder until Assefa won in Berlin.

The men’s field is headlined by Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele, the second-fastest male marathoner in history, and Brit Mo Farah, a four-time Olympic champion on the track.

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