BEIJING (AP) – International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said Saturday he sees “no reason for any immediate concern” about tensions on the Korean Peninsula affecting next year’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Bach told The Associated Press in Beijing that the IOC was monitoring developments but was buoyed by the support of governments and national Olympic committees.
Security challenges posed by the escalating tensions over North Korea’s nuclear weapons program are expected to be assessed at an IOC meeting in Lima, Peru in September – five months before the Winter Games are staged 80 kilometers (50 miles) across the border from the North.
“We are watching the situation, but I think there is no reason for any immediate concern because the fact that the games are taking place there is appreciated by all the national Olympic committees and by the governments,” Bach said. “So in this respect we’re continuing with our preparations.”
North Korea fired several rockets into the sea Saturday in the continuation of its rapid nuclear and missile expansion, prompting South Korea to press ahead with military drills involving U.S. troops that have angered Pyongyang. China, North Korea’s chief economic partner and communist ally, has joined in condemnations of previous launches but has yet to comment on the latest ones.
Bach was in Beijing to review preparations for the 2022 Winter Games to be held in the Chinese capital, which also hosted the 2008 Summer Games. Beijing is the first city to win the right to host both the Summer and Winter Olympics.
Visiting the organizing committee’s offices in a converted steel mill in western Beijing, Bach gave a positive assessment of preparations, especially the reuse of venues from the 2008 Olympics.
Beijing was picked by the IOC in July 2015, beating the Kazakh city of Almaty by four votes in a surprisingly close contest. Beijing had been considered the overwhelming favorite but was criticized for a lack of natural snow.