IOC announce North Korea to send 22 athletes to Winter Olympic Games

IOC announce North Korea to send 22 athletes to Winter Olympic Games”

South and North Korea agreed Wednesday to field a joint women's ice hockey team for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in the South next month and march together under a unified Korea flag at the opening ceremony.

The North Korean officials are scheduled to spend two days inspecting art centres in Gangneung city, which will also host several of the Olympic events.

The governing body of hockey, based in Switzerland, embraced the proposal given "the exceptional circumstances of these two countries".

“The participation of a united Korean team is a good idea politically and diplomatically, but when it comes to fairness in sport it raises some questions, ” Swiss ice hockey federation spokesman Janos Kick told AFP.

"With extra scrutiny on Russian athletes, November and December saw testing on double the number of athletes from Russia than any other country", the International Olympic Committee said in a statement.

"We will work actively to improve North-South Korean relations but will not stand still to actions that are against unification", the North's Rodong Sinmun newspaper said.

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"A message from Ri Son-gwon, chairman of North Korea's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, states, 'A seven-person delegation led by Hyon Song-wol, head of the Samjiyon Orchestra, will be dispatched to the South on Saturday via the Gyeongui Line [a road that crosses the border near the west coast] to determine the logistics for the North Korean artistes".

Until Saturday, a figure skating pair were the only North Koreans to have secured a spot at the Games. The International Skating Union awarded that entry to Japan, and said the IOC must approve any late entry and increase the competition quota.

But, critics in the South have said a unified team would disrupt the side and deprive some Southern squad members of the chance to play on the Olympic stage.

The delegation is expected to begin arriving in South Korea on January 25, the statement said.

There is precedent for fielding a joint team in global competition, including at the 1991 football under-20 World Cup, when the two Koreas competed together and even advanced to the quarter finals. A special unity uniform will also be created for the event.

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