Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The Trump-DPRK War of Words and the Pyeongchang Olympics: Some echoes from the 1988 Games in Seoul?

As reported quite widely in the international media, the war of words between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korea's leadership has sparked concern in some nations about security for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.  For example, as reported by Deutsche Welle, responsible officials in both Austria and France have publicly indicated that, if security deteriorates, their teams will not attend.
The Pyeongchang Winter Olympics are scheduled to take place almost exactly three decades after the highly successful Seoul Olympics.   As described in the following excerpt from my 1993 book with Heung Soo Park (downloadable full-text from Google Books) a political crisis also threatened the successful hosting of the 1988 Olympics.
"By June 1987, the political crisis in South Korea had deepened and was receiving considerable attention from the international media. This led several cities, including Berlin, Los Angeles, and New York, to publicly express their interest in staging the 1988 Games if Seoul was unable to host them because of the unrest. IOC President Samaranch was repeatedly asked about the possibility of moving the Games from Seoul. On July 9, he stated,
"It will be Seoul only. I don't know any other solution. If there will be no games in Seoul, there will be no games at all next year. We are not considering any other city as an organizing post. They've had outstanding preparations in Seoul and I can say that never has any city showed such a degree of preparation. They do have some internal problems in South Korea, but I think that situation is improving. We have received some very good news recently." (Larson and Park, Global Television and the Politics of the Seoul Olympics, Boulder: Westview Press, 1993, pp. 160-161)"
To be sure, the current crisis on the Korean peninsula is of a different nature and on a different scale than the one faced back in 1987.  Three decades ago, the world was still living in the industrial mass media era, although on the verge of the digital network revolution.   The common denominator is that the full success of the Pyeongchang Games depends, as did the 1988 Seoul Olympics, on the assurance of a safe environment for the athletes, coaches, staff and spectators.

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