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The fact that there are concerns heading into an Olympic Games is nothing new. However, worries about the possibility of military conflict breaking out have Olympic delegations making contingency plans for Pyeongchang.
One hundred days before the opening ceremony for the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, there is more skepticism than ever before, and in some cases, there's little the South Korean organizers can do about it.
The most pressing concern is security. Fears that a terrorist group could target a high-profile event like the Olympic Games is nothing new, but this time many are worried about the possibility of armed conflict breaking out.
Pyeongchang is located just 90 kilometers (50 miles) from the heavily fortified Demilitarized Zone that separates South Korea from the communist North, and recent threats traded between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have only served to raise regional tensions.
While most national Olympic committees have played down the possible danger to athletes, the British Olympic Association's chief executive, Bill Sweeney recently confirmed that his organization had drawn up contingency plans.
"Clearly there is an issue around the escalation of tensions between North and South Korea and the Americans," Sweeney was quoted by the Associated Press as saying. "We will go there with a clearly laid out evacuation plan if it is necessary. I don't think it will be necessary. The health and welfare of the delegation is our No. 1 priority."
Kelly Skinner, US Olympic Committee vice president of sport performance, declined to give a direct answer when asked by the AFP news agency about whether the USOC had an evacuation plan.
"Team USA is always prepared for any place that we go and we work closely with the State Department on anything that needs to be done to make sure that Team USA is safe and secure," Skinner said.
Mascots Soohorang, a white tiger, and Bandabi, an Asiatic black bear are the mascots for the Pyeongchang Games
The German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) has also said that it is closely monitoring the situation on the Korean Peninsula and, although some German athletes have expressed their doubts about going, the DOSB has said that it is still "too early" to even consider the possibility of staying home.
What to do about Russia?
Another major bone of contention is whether Russian athletes should be allowed to compete at the Winter Olympics at all in light of the findings of two reports commissioned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) in 2016, which outlined evidence of systematic state-sponsored doping in the country. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced at its recent summit in Lausanne that a decision on whether Russian athletes would be allowed to compete in Pyeongchang would be taken at a meeting of the IOC's executive committee in early December.
The IOC was criticized in the run-up to the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro for leaving the decision up to the federations that govern the individual sports. More than 270 Russian athletes wound up competing in Rio.
Slow ticket sales
The Pyeongchang organizing committee has set itself the goal of selling at least 90 percent of the 1.17 million tickets on offer for the 2018 Winter Games – 70 percent of which it hopes will be snapped up by South Koreans. However, so far sales have been slow at best – 100 days ahead of the opening ceremony, only about a third of the tickets have been bought. Still, the organizing committee is putting on a brave face.
"We are confident that sales will pick up," organizing committee spokeswoman Lee Jihye was quoted by the DPA news agency as saying. "At past mega events in Korea, such as the 2002 World Cup, we saw that more Koreans bought tickets as we got closer to the event."
pfd/mf (SID, dpa, AFP)