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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Dec. 11)

All News 07:11 December 11, 2017

IOC's ban on Russia
International factors cast doubt on PyeongChang Games

With the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games only weeks away, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has decided to ban Russia's flag from the PyeongChang Olympics.

The IOC, chaired by former Olympic gold medalist in fencing Thomas Bach, announced a range of sanctions against Russia last week for organized doping at the 2014 Sochi Games. Russia won 22 medals, including Adelina Sotnikova's gold medal over 2010 Olympic champion Kim Yu-na in the women's figure skating.

Russian athletes can compete at the Feb.9-25 Games, but in neutral uniform and without their national flag or anthem. The IOC will invite individual Russians to compete under the Olympic flag.

Competing at the Games without a flag is not something any Olympian would wish for. For any athlete, being an Olympian is a dream — many train for the honor of representing his or her country in the world's biggest sporting event.

The ban is bad news for PyeongChang organizers. But the ban should serve a crucial purpose of reminding the sports world that doping will not be tolerated.

Despite the ban, many winter sports fans are hoping that Russian medal hopefuls will participate, including Viktor An, a Korean-born Russian short-track speed-skater who won multiple gold medals at the 2006 and 2014 Winter Olympics. Many Koreans understand his decision to become a Russian citizen and want to see him end his illustrious career in his motherland.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said his government would not boycott the upcoming games and would allow Russians to compete as neutral athletes.

Korea's Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Sports welcomed Putin's remarks and said Korea would extend the same support to Russian athletes as to other competitors. Hopefully, this will encourage many Russian athletes to still compete in PyeongChang and not miss a chance to realize their ultimate dreams.

Aside from the IOC ban on Russia, other international factors have cast some doubts about the success the nation's first winter Olympics. Last week, the U.S. sent mixed signals about participating because of concerns for the safety of athletes amid North Korea's increasing provocations.

The Moon Jae-in administration has focused on getting North Korea to come to PyeongChang. North Korea's participation is important to realize Moon's vision of "Olympics of peace," but it is more important to ensure that our allies and traditional powerhouses in winter sports compete.

The government should send a clear message that Korea is making every effort to ensure the safety of everyone and to make the games one of the most memorable Olympic experiences.

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