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  • Athlete Issues for Unified Olympic Team


    Koreans from North and South marched under this flag in Sydney and Athens. 
    (ATR) Deciding who will compete on a unified Korean team at the Olympics appears to be the most difficult issue to solve in negotiations between North and South,Around the Rings is told.

    A meeting Wednesday in a North Korean border town with sports leaders from both sides produced no agreements, other than a vague declaration to meet again. North and South Korean agreed on Nov. 1 to seek unified teams for the Beijing Olympics, as well as the upcoming Asian Games, one year away.

    No date has been set for a resumption of talks. One expert in Korea calls the Wednesday meeting simply a "pre-discussion meeting" prior to an "Official Meeting", at which more headway would presumably be made.

    Around the Rings is told the most vexing question is how to pick athletes for the team, whether for individual events or on teams.

    If North Korea doesn't qualify in softball, for example, and South Korea does, will North Korean athletes be barred from that team?

    How to decide in individual events when athletes from North and South may have equal standing to qualify for the Olympics?

    At the same time they address the issue of fairness in team selection, Korean officials are also aiming to assemble the strongest possible team, a difficult balancing act.

    Based on numbers from Athens, a unified Korean team would number about 200. In Athens, about 30 North Korean athletes competed, winning a total of five medals. South Korea numbered about 170, also qualifying teams in football, handball and hockey. North Korea failed to qualify in any team sports at the Athens Olympics.

    With a unified team as early as next December for the Asian Games as one goal of the talks, some breakthrough may be needed sooner than later, given the complications the Koreans face over athlete selection.

    Officials from the Olympic Council of Asia are waiting to meet with the Koreans to sort out competition, logistic and protocol details for the fast-approaching games.

    These negotiations are taking place with little or no involvement from the three IOC members from the Koreas. The two South Korean members are sidelined with personal problems, while North Korea's IOC member is saddled with the distinction of serving as a conduit for cash payments from ex-South Korean IOC member Un Yong Kim. That money, hundreds of thousands of dollars, was paid to insure that the North would march with the South in Sydney and Athens.

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