From fear of terror attacks throughout the London Games to concerns of mosquitoes diffusing Zika virus during the Rio Games, with each Olympic Games comes a new sense of horrified anticipation.
PyeongChang, South Korea, the host city of Winter 2018’s games, is just 50 miles shy of North Korea, a country with a leader who has a nuclear button collecting dust on his desk.
The Olympics are a time for countries to unite regardless of their politics or policies. No differently, the upcoming Winter Olympics have the potential to both unify nations and serve justice.
Dating back to the beginning of the Olympics, the Olympic Truce stems from Iphitos, King of Elis, who was hell-bent on breaking the ever-present rhythm of armed conflict that monopolized Ancient Greece in ninth century B.C. The legend states that Iphitos called for the oracle of Delphi, who instructed him to establish an amicable sporting competition. And so, the Olympic Games were born.
As reported by the International Olympic Committee, the Olympic Truce has been reinstated before every Olympic Games dating back to Lillehammer in 1994. This acts to “mobilize youth for the promotion of the Olympic ideal, to use sport to help build bridges between communities in conflict, and, more generally, to create a window of opportunity for dialogue and reconciliation,” according to olympic.org. These notions are what the world needs, now, more than ever.
North Korea seems to act as more and more of a threat to the United States with every passing day; however, the country’s involvements in this year’s Games could signify at least a moment of pause in tension. In his New Year’s speech, leader of North Korea Kim Jong Un boasted about his nuclear button while also announcing his agreement to talk to South Korea for the first time in two years. The two countries then discussed North Korea’s plans “to send athletes, officials and a cheer squad to the upcoming Games,” according to USA Today.
While North Korea will be represented at the upcoming Winter 2018 Olympics, former top-notch competitor Russia will not be in attendance. Thanks to whistle-blower Grigory Rodchenkov, prior head of Moscow’s anti-doping center, 39 Russian athletes were awarded a lifetime ban from the Games for their doping violations at Sochi in 2014.
Because of the ban, only individual Russian athletes who can prove they have not been doping will be able to compete under the Olympic flag—instead of doing so for Russia. A fresh generation of athletes—all performing clean—will be ready to compete at PyeongChang, according to Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Vitaly Mutko, the former sports minister who has since been banned from the Olympics for life.
Although this ban certainly is an upset for Russian athletes, it sets an unquestionable standard for countries involved in future Olympic Games. Banning Russia from being represented sends the message that state-sponsored cheating will not be tolerated. The issue of unfairness for these Games will not be seen as a question, but rather something that they will stamp out and thus prevent for Olympic Games to come.
This year, the United Nations General Assembly took on the resolution to work toward “building a peaceful and better world through sport and the Olympic Ideal,” according to olympic.org. By South Korea including North Korea and punishing Russia for their wrongdoings, the IOC continues to promote the qualities of the Olympic Truce. Sportsmanship and unity throughout the competition—two principles that should transfer to the world after the Games conclude—are what the world clearly needs in lieu of our current political state.
Russia’s national anthem “Gimn Rossiiskoi Federatsii” is a familiar tune to any Olympic aficionado, however, this Winter Olympics, “Aegukka,” the anthem of North Korea has a better chance of being heard. From affairs involving doping, to actual foreign affairs, the PyeongChang Olympics will irrefutably keep spectators spellbound.