Sun, Jul 04, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Koreas eye joint Olympic team

JOINING FORCES Discussions between the two Koreas to compete as one team in the 2008 Olympic Games a gesture of 'peace and unity'

REUTERS , SEOUL

South and North Korea are to begin discussions next month on forming a joint team for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

The two Koreas have agreed to parade together in the opening ceremony in Athens next month in a show of growing rapprochement between the old Cold War enemies.

"We have every reason to believe that discussions about a single team will begin at the scene of the Athens Games between the presidents of the two Koreas' national Olympic committees," a South Korean committee official said by telephone on Saturday.

The two Koreas remain technically at war and are divided by the world's most heavily fortified border which was created under a truce that ended the 1950-53 Korean War. Reconciliation began in June 2000 when, after decades of bitter and tense standoff, the two Koreas' national leaders met for their one and only summit ever.

"The discussions will most likely happen naturally when the presidents attend the Athens Games next month," the South Korean official said, requesting anonymity.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said on Friday the two Koreas would parade together in Athens.

Same flag

The march will repeat the first one the two Koreas made under the same flag at the 2000 Games in Sydney.

"This joint march will be one of the highlights of the opening ceremony of the Athens Games in a few weeks' time," IOC president Jacques Rogge said in a statement.

"It shows that sport can unite and promote peace. It is wonderful to see the two NOCs (national Olympic committees) putting the Olympic values into practice in such a demonstrable way."

A resolution is pending in South Korea's parliament signed by 41 members urging the formation of a joint team for Beijing. South Korea picked up 28 medals in Sydney including eight gold. North Korea did not win gold but collected one silver and three bronze.

The athletes entering the Athens Games will parade under a single flag of the Korean peninsula instead of the two national flags and march to the folk song "Arirang."

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