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Lorsque les dirigeants des Corées du Nord et du Sud se réuniront le 27 avril, ce ne sera que le troisième sommet de ce genre depuis la fin de la guerre de Corée. Un moment rare dans notre monde polarisé. Il y a quelques mois encore, l’escalade des tensions politiques était vive et un risque d’affrontement militaire dans la péninsule coréenne existait. C’est à cette situation de crise, ponctuée de tirs de missiles, d’essais nucléaires et de discours belliqueux, que le monde et les Jeux olympiques d’hiver de Pyeongchang 2018 faisaient face à l’automne 2017. Pour expliquer le relâchement de ces tensions, il convient de considérer le rôle des Jeux olympiques.…  Seguir leyendo »

If you’ve been following coverage of the Winter Olympic Games on major international news outlets such as CNN, BBC and ABC, you might think that Kim Jong Un’s sister is kind and charming, that North Korean athletes are happy and liberated, or that Pyongyang is suddenly a peaceful, “normal” government interested in giving up power through diplomacy.

Don’t be fooled. The Olympics has been a PR dream come true for the murderous Kim dictatorship. South Korea’s Moon administration claims to be using the games to foster goodwill, but the reality is that the Hermit Kingdom has taken this opportunity to stage one of history’s great whitewashing operations, where the breathless focus is on the fashion style of the Dear Leader’s sister instead of his forced labor camps and police state.…  Seguir leyendo »

Todo empezó en un árido valle del Peloponeso. La idea fundacional consistía en confrontar las habilidades de los contendientes sin que corriera la sangre. Los ganadores se proclamaban a partir de medidas objetivas. Quién corría más, quién saltaba o lanzaba más lejos la jabalina o el disco. Se incluían carreras hípicas, pentatlón, lucha libre y otras modalidades reguladas de combate cuerpo a cuerpo. Los Juegos eran democráticos, es decir, abiertos a la participación de todos los ciudadanos libres. ¿Dónde estaba el lado oscuro?

Los Juegos ya se celebraban cada cuatro años. Eran mucho más importantes que en la actualidad. Atraían a miles de espectadores, comportaban treguas obligadas en las guerras, la paralización de la vida pública en las ciudades griegas.…  Seguir leyendo »

How to Fix Olympic Ice Hockey

Men’s ice hockey begins on Wednesday at the Winter Olympics — but without the world’s top players. For the first time since the 1994 games, National Hockey League players won’t be competing. It isn’t that they don’t want to play. The Canadian star Sidney Crosby, probably the best player in the world, put it this way: “I’d love to be there.” The Russian star Alex Ovechkin, who has participated in three Olympics, and Patrick Kane, one of the best American players, expressed a strong desire to compete, too.

But the National Hockey League says it now cannot “see what the benefit is” in Olympic participation, and insists that its players are contractually obliged to skip the games.…  Seguir leyendo »

Last week at the Olympics, despite the dogged efforts of Vice President Pence, human rights promotion lost out to intrigue as the world fawned over Kim Yo Jong, North Korea’s chief of propaganda and sister to dictator Kim Jong Un. But this year’s games are just the latest evidence the world has stopped viewing these international events as opportunities to highlight liberal values.

The power of the Olympics to be a platform for human rights advocacy was decimated after the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, when the Chinese government reneged on its promises by perpetrating a crackdown while the world stood idly by.…  Seguir leyendo »

As Olympics Open, Moon’s Warm Words for Pyongyang Alarm South Korea’s Allies

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has used the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, which begin today, to renew the dialogue with North Korea. The countries have formed a joint women’s hockey team and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister Kim Yo-jong, who is said to have strong ties with her brother, is attending the opening ceremony.

Such moves appeal to the people who voted for Moon in 2017, as he is widely known as a North Korea-friendly politician and was looking for opportunities to open a negotiation channel with Pyongyang. But his efforts have wider implications for South Korea’s foreign policy, most notably its relationships with Japan and the US.…  Seguir leyendo »

A visitor passes under LED light decorations ahead of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games in Gangwon Province, South Korea, on Thursday. (Bloomberg News)

The opening of the Olympic Winter Games in South Korea comes at a time of increased regional tensions. North Korean nuclear and missile tests throughout 2017 — showcasing new capabilities — and harsh rhetoric from Pyongyang and Washington have put the region on edge.

The Games could play a calming role. North Korea will send athletes south, and the two Koreas will “march together in the opening ceremony and field a joint team in women’s ice hockey.” The official North Korean delegation includes Kim Jong Un’s sister and close adviser, Kim Yo Jong — a signal that the North may be taking this opportunity for meetings seriously.…  Seguir leyendo »

Will North Korea Win the Gold Medal for Deceit

A gaggle of young North Koreans in neon chased me down the mountain on skis, expertly skidding to a stop at my feet as I sat on the slope tightening my bindings.

They peppered me with questions: “What’s your name? How old are you? Where are you from? Are you married?”

It was 2014 and we were at Masikryong Ski Resort, a pet project of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The resort, a multimillion-dollar facility featuring luxury lodges and pristine slopes about 100 miles east of Pyongyang, had opened a few weeks earlier and I was there on a reporting trip — and to get a little snowboarding in.…  Seguir leyendo »

North Korea’s Lipstick Diplomacy

When North Korea’s 22 Olympians compete in Pyeongchang this month, they won’t be alone: Accompanying them will be 230 young North Korean women, all of them at least 5 feet 3 inches, all of them deemed “pretty” by the state.

Western news outlets have taken to calling these women an “army of beauties”; in South Korea, they are often “beautiful cheerleaders.” In reality, they are mostly students, selected from upper-class families in Pyongyang for their loyalty to the party, their musical talent and their looks. These women are deployed abroad by the regime on special occasions, when it wants to show its best face — or best faces, rather — to the world.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sports Diplomacy in the Korean Peninsula

North Korea’s decision to dispatch Kim Jong-un’s younger sister Yo-jong to South Korea (Republic of Korea, ROK) as part of a delegation to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics has opened up the possibility for the past month of sports diplomacy to garner something more substantive and lasting. With all parties to the Korean peninsula conflict sending senior delegations to South Korea for the Games, everyone should take a moment to give diplomacy a chance.

Kim Yo-jong’s visit is one outcome of high-level talks between the two Koreas during January, a process that started with Kim Jong-un using the annual North Korean leader’s address on 1 January to call for a successful New Year for both Koreas.…  Seguir leyendo »

North Korean cheering squads arriving at the Korean-transit office near the Demilitarized Zone in Paju, South Korea, this week. Credit Pool photo by Ahn Young-Joon

In the run-up to the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, some South Koreans have been grumbling that this may as well be the “Pyongyang Games.”

Since the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, announced on Jan. 1 that he was interested in sending a delegation to the Games, there has been a flurry of inter-Korean agreements.

Twenty-two North Korean athletes will participate in the Olympics, and they will arrive with some 230 cheerleaders in tow. The two Koreas are fielding a joint women’s ice hockey team. And at the opening ceremony on Friday, they will march under a single flag, the Korean Unification Flag.…  Seguir leyendo »

Après un sprint à la conquête de la dissuasion nucléaire, Kim Jong-un avait bien besoin de souffler un peu. Les trois essais nucléaires et les plus de quarante tirs de missiles depuis début 2016 ont eu pour conséquences l’imposition à la Corée du Nord des sanctions internationales les plus sévères de l’ère onusienne ainsi qu’une escalade des tensions en Extrême-Orient. Le prix du pétrole dans le pays a, selon certaines sources, doublé ces trois derniers mois tandis que les rumeurs sur une possible opération militaire américaine se sont multipliées. Il était urgent de desserrer l’étau et de tenter une offensive diplomatique envers les Etats-Unis.…  Seguir leyendo »

An Olympic Truce Could Help Solve the Korea Crisis

In ancient Greece, any and all warfare would pause ahead of the Olympic Games so that athletes and spectators could travel safely to the big event.

That’s not too far from what’s happening on the Korean Peninsula. After a year of mounting tension, North and South Korea have stumbled into a period of self-imposed calm. It’s not just that in the lead-up to the Pyeongchang games, which start on February 9, the two neighbors have agreed to field a unified women’s hockey team and parade together at the opening ceremony under a single flag. It’s that they’ve quietly entered into a de facto Olympic truce.…  Seguir leyendo »

The 2018 Winter Olympics Are Already Tainted

The International Olympic Committee may have suspended Russia’s team from the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, over a system of doping. But the ruling — which allows Russian athletes to compete under a “neutral flag” — is a joke, a non-punitive punishment meant to save face while protecting the committee’s and Russia’s commercial and political interests.

I feel entitled to say this because I conducted the investigation on behalf of the World Anti-Doping Agency.

The 2016 report of the WADA investigation found that Russia operated a state-sponsored doping program on a level not seen since East Germany’s and, in the process, cheated hundreds of clean athletes of their rightful place on Olympic and World Championship pedestals.…  Seguir leyendo »

¿Quién quiere todavía unos Juegos Olímpicos? Queda ya muy lejos el tiempo en que los gobiernos y las grandes ciudades pugnaban por conseguirlos. De una sesión a otra, el campo de la competición se va reduciendo. Cuando, hace doce años, París quedó eliminada ante Londres, muchos franceses de entonces se sintieron humillados. Esta vez París adelantó a Los Ángeles y los Juegos se celebrarán allí en 2024. ¿Pero alguien ha visto a parisinos orgullosos y alegres desfilar por las calles? La verdad es que no.

Solo las personalidades oficiales, el presidente Macron, la alcaldesa de París –Anne Hidalgo–, los dirigentes de los clubes y los anunciantes directamente implicados en esta aventura más política que deportiva han apreciado el que Francia haya ganado.…  Seguir leyendo »

Uno de los legados que queda de los Juegos Olímpicos de Barcelona de hace 25 años es su profundo espíritu federalista. Tras recorrer la antorcha olímpica toda España, entre el 25 de julio al 11 de agosto de 1992 se practicó con toda normalidad el multi-lingüismo y la multi-capitalidad, dos de los rasgos deseables de un modelo federal. La voz de Constantino Romero nos acostumbró a que el catalán y el castellano podían estar al mismo nivel, junto al inglés y el francés. Barcelona compartió protagonismo con Sevilla y Madrid en los llamados fastos del 92, pero también descentralizó las sedes olímpicas por todo el territorio catalán y más allá, con pruebas en otras Comunidades Autónomas.…  Seguir leyendo »

Ejércitos de delegados de cuatros ciudades —dirigidos por una serie de magnates, banqueros, empresarios y funcionarios gubernamentales— luchan para halagar a los líderes del Comité Olímpico Internacional (COI) con la esperanza de que les otorguen el derecho de ser la sede de los juegos de verano de 2024. Los delegados representan a Los Ángeles, París, Roma y Budapest, y tienen reuniones con casi todos los que pueden influir en el resultado.

Sin embargo, estas ciudades buscan ganar un privilegio que durante las últimas tres décadas también ha sido visto como una maldición. Con pocas excepciones, los juegos le han costado miles de millones a las ciudades anfitrionas.…  Seguir leyendo »

Pensé en comenzar esta columna elogiando a la gente amigable y de mente abierta de Brasil, la belleza natural de nuestro paisaje y la delicia sin igual de las galletas Globo. Pero quizá el sarcasmo no sea la mejor respuesta para aquellos que me culpan por escribir solo cosas malas de mi país, arruinando la imagen de nuestra amada tierra de la samba y las caipirinhas.

La gente me dice que he criticado abiertamente nuestros problemas. Me reclaman que “la ropa sucia nunca debe lavarse en público” y que sería mejor decir solo cosas positivas de Brasil.

Después de escribir hace poco un artículo en el que criticaba muchos aspectos de la organización de las olimpiadas, me sentí abrumada por la indignación patriótica.…  Seguir leyendo »

The Rio 2016 organising committee in Brazil has given a flagrant two-finger salute to the Paralympics, due to begin in just over two weeks’ time. The Games will, sadly, be remembered for abject failure — save for the sensational performances of the athletes, no doubt, who will be forced to compete in adversity with venues closed and service levels slashed.

Parlous planning and a lack of understanding and interest in the Paralympics has resulted in pathetic 12 per cent ticket sales, lack of sponsors and a Games fighting for its life, with many nations unable to attend through the non-payment of travel grants.…  Seguir leyendo »

Aunque el movimiento olímpico pretende en sus principios fundamentales separar política y deporte en los Juegos, los de Río, como manifestación deportiva global, se prestan a una lectura política. Nada nuevo, en realidad, bajo el sol: recuérdense los boicots de países en el marco de la Guerra Fría o la matanza de deportistas israelíes en Múnich 1972.

Así pues, no es de extrañar que se puedan extraer, junto a enseñanzas de autoayuda personal, lecciones de geopolítica de los Juegos recién acabados, como reflejo que son en bastante medida del poder (blando) en las relaciones internacionales. Asoman en torno a la competición algunos de los flagelos de nuestro mundo: la amenaza del terrorismo, epidemias, el nacionalismo fanático, el racismo, la corrupción, el machismo, el mercantilismo, la inquina entre vecinos, hasta el drama de los refugiados… La hazaña individual es capitalizada, a veces a pesar del propio héroe, por el dirigente político de turno, especialmente cuando es autocrático, de la misma forma que el fracaso puede acarrearle represalias a su regreso.…  Seguir leyendo »