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IPC chief says N. Korean participation in PyeongChang Paralympics sends message of peace

All Headlines 15:40 March 08, 2018

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea, March 8 (Yonhap) -- International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President Andrew Parsons said Thursday that North Korea's participation in the PyeongChang Winter Paralympic Games sends a "strong message of peace."

Parsons said during a press conference at the Main Press Centre in PyeongChang, some 180 kilometers of Seoul, that he is excited for the 12th Winter Paralympic Games that will kick off their 10-day journey Friday. He said the PyeongChang Paralympic Games will be record breaking with newcomers like North Korea.

"The participation of North Korea and the two cross-country skiers is extremely significant, and sends out a strong message of peace through sport," he said. "I'm really optimistic we will smash the record for our biggest international TV audience outside of the host market."

The IPC in January invited North Korea to the first Winter Paralympics in South Korea and allowed two sit skiers to compete in PyeongChang. North Korea previously made two Summer Paralympics appearances, but this will be the first time that it will perform at the Winter Paralympics.

Parsons said he believes PyeongChang will stage another successful event like it did for the Winter Olympics last month.

"Although preparations have been seven years in the making, I know the aspirations for South Korea's Winter Games came nearly 20 years ago and last month PyeongChang staged a wonderful Olympic Games," he said. "We are only a few hours from the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games, and we would like to have the same level of energy and enthusiasm as the one with which you delivered in the Olympics Games."

PyeongChang 2018 chief organizer Lee Hee-beom said he agrees to Parsons' view on the North's Paralympic Games participation. Lee said he hopes the message of peace through sports can spread out to the world.

"I think that this mode of peace is now going beyond the Olympic and Paralympic Games," he said. "We hope that this can spread peace on the Korean Peninsula and northeast Asia, and also around the world."

Lee said the tickets sales for the PyeongChang Paralympics have surpassed their expectations.

"We originally targeted to sell 220,000 tickets or 80 percent of our target sales of 280,000, but now we're already over that figure," he said. "For the wheelchair curling, tickets are already sold out, but ticket inquiries are exploding. We'll talk with the IPC to sell seats that were originally allocated for media and guests."

Lee said the organizers are currently working hard to clear the snow at outdoor competition venues, as well as the Olympic Stadium, where the opening and closing ceremonies will be held.

"I'm sorry for the heavy snow outside," he said. "By early tomorrow morning, the snow will stop, and we will have very clear skies and very warm weather."

International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons (4th from L), PyeongChang 2018 organizing committee chief Lee Hee-beom (5th from L) and South Korean Sports Minister Do Jong-hwan (3rd from R) pose for a photo with officials during the Paralympic Truce Mural Signing Ceremony at the athletes' village in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, on March 8, 2018. (Yonhap)

kdon@yna.co.kr
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