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Thomas Bach, Kim Jong Un talk North Korea Olympic participation

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PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang on Friday.

Bach told an Associated Press Television crew in an exclusive interview that two had a 30-minute formal meeting followed by 45 minutes of casual discussions while watching a football match Friday afternoon at Pyongyang’s huge May Day Stadium.

He said Kim Jong Un supported a plan to have North Korean athletes compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 Beijing Winter Games.

Bach arrived in Pyongyang on Thursday to discuss development of sports in North Korea and the preparation of its athletes to qualify and participate in upcoming Olympics.

He is the first foreign official to meet Kim since the North Korean leader returned earlier this week from a summit in Beijing with Chinese President Xi Jinping. That was Kim’s first known trip abroad since he assumed power after the death of his father in late 2011.

Kim is to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on April 27.

Bach’s trip to Pyongyang comes after the IOC played a big part in allowing North Korea to send a delegation to the PyeongChang Olympics.

He said he received a commitment from the North’s National Olympic Committee to participate in the 2020 and 2022 Olympics, along with the respective youth Olympic Games.

“This commitment has been fully supported by the supreme leader Kim Jong Un in a meeting we had this afternoon,” Bach said.

The North and South hailed the PyeongChang Games as a significant step toward easing tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

Raising the level of North Korean athletes has been high on Kim’s agenda since he became leader. Of the 22 North Korean athletes who competed in PyeongChang, only two won places on merit and the other 20 were granted special spots by the IOC.

Bach, who is German, competed in the Olympics for West Germany when the Germanys were still divided and says that gives him a special feeling for the Koreas.

While in PyeongChang, he said he was happy with the role the IOC played but added that sports alone cannot heal all wounds.

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IOC president Thomas Bach visits North Korea

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PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach arrived in North Korea on Thursday after playing a key role in allowing it to participate in PyeongChang.

Bach was met at Pyongyang’s international airport by North Korean Sports Minister Kim Il Guk and Chang Ung, the country’s Olympic committee member.

Bach did not take questions at the airport.

It was not known if Bach would meet during his three-day visit with leader Kim Jong Un, who has just returned from a summit in Beijing with Chinese President Xi Jinping, his first known trip abroad as leader. Kim also is to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on April 27.

The IOC said on its website that discussions during Bach’s visit would focus on development of sports in North Korea and the preparation of its athletes to qualify and participate in upcoming Olympics.

Of the 22 North Koreans who competed in PyeongChang, two earned places on merit. The other 20 were granted spots by the IOC.

During the Olympics, Bach said he was happy with the role the IOC played in getting North Korea and South Korea together at the Games. But he added that sports alone cannot heal all wounds.

“You know sport cannot create peace,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press. “We cannot lead their political negotiations. We have sent this message — this dialogue — that negotiations can lead to a positive result. Now it’s up to the political side to use this momentum.”

Bach, who is German, competed in the Olympics for West Germany when the Germanys were still divided, and said that gives him a special feeling for the Koreas.

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Thomas Bach: Russian Olympic athlete list made so no ‘negative surpises’

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — Seeking to avoid “negative surprises” about past doping by Russian athletes after they compete at the PyeongChang Olympics, IOC President Thomas Bach explained Wednesday why invitation rules must be strict.

Bach told reporters in a conference call that only clean athletes with “not the slightest doubt or suspicion” about them should go to the Games that open Feb. 9.

It is the first Winter Games since the doping-tainted Sochi Olympics in 2014.

“The final invited list will consist of clean athletes, so that neither Russia nor the Olympic movement will have to face any negative surprises,” the International Olympic Committee leader said.

Six-time short-track speedskating gold medalist Viktor Ahn is among several high-profile Russians blocked from competing in South Korea by an IOC panel that is assessing each athlete’s testing history and potential forensic evidence.

Five hockey players have also been barred, including former NHL players Sergei Plotnikov, Valeri Nichushkin and Anton Belov.

”If such an athlete is not on the list, then this independent panel has serious indications by different sources and by different means,” Bach said.

The IOC has not confirmed any names before publishing a list of invited athletes this weekend, nor has it detailed all the criteria being used by the panel to vet each athlete.

“There could be a suspicion, there may be even ongoing procedures, there could be many factors which did not lead to the satisfaction of the panel,” Bach said.

Declining to discuss individual cases, he did suggest potential evidence from a Moscow testing laboratory’s database is one such factor.

The database trove being studied by the IOC invitation panel covers years of the lab’s work when Russia operated a state-backed program of doping and cover-ups across summer and winter sports.

“This is why we had the (World Anti-Doping Agency) chief investigator Mr. (Gunter) Younger in this group to contribute with his first-hand experience,” Bach said.

Another possible reason for excluding a Russian athlete from the Olympics is appearing on the so-called “Duchess List” of athletes using a steroids cocktail compiled by former lab director Grigory Rodchenkov. He is a key whistleblower now living as a protected witness in the United States.

Bach said that forensic evidence from tampered urine samples — “salt analysis, DNA inconsistencies” — and suspect readings from an athlete’s biological passport could also lead to exclusion from the invited Russian team.

Organizers want to avoid situations “where there are new facts arriving,” said Bach, who wants to avoid altering PyeongChang results and reallocating medals to clean athletes after the Games.

“It is extremely important and this is one of the reasons why we have the widest and the strictest ever pre-games testing program,” he said.

Russian athletes that are invited will compete as “Olympic Athletes from Russia” under the Olympic flag, and in neutral uniform.

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