- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 23, 2018

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - South Korean Olympic organizers say it’s too late to include a North Korean taekwondo performance in the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Winter Games, but it might still occur at the Olympic Stadium on Feb. 9.

Song Seung-hwan, the creative director of the opening and closing ceremonies, said Tuesday there are discussions on whether to include the North Korean taekwondo demonstration team in a program ahead of the opening ceremony. A Pyeongchang organizing committee official said nothing has been decided.

Song said a North Korean presence at the Pyeongchang Olympics would make the peace-themed opening and closing ceremonies more meaningful, but it would be impossible to introduce new elements into the ceremonies this late.

“North Korea’s participation will bring no changes to the concept of the opening and closing ceremonies,” Song said at a news conference in Pyeongchang.

The opening and closing ceremonies will be held at Pyeongchang’s 35,000-seat Olympic Stadium, a steely pentagonal arena that will be torn down after the games to reduce costs.

Spectators in the outdoor stadium will have to prepare for hours of exposure to cold winter temperatures in an area notorious for strong winds. Organizers plan to provide each spectator at the Olympic ceremonies with a raincoat, a small blanket and heating pads. Polycarbonate walls will be installed above the highest seats across the two northwest sides of the stadium to block the strongest winds. About 40 portable gas heaters will be placed in aisles between the rows of plastic seats.

“There are people who say they wouldn’t come to the opening ceremony because it would be too cold,” Lee Hee-beom, president of Pyeongchang’s organizing committee, said at the news conference. “(But) we are making all kinds of preparations for the cold weather. There’s no need to be excessively worried.”

North Korea agreed earlier this month to send a delegation to the Olympics, in the first formal talks between the Koreas in about two years. Its delegation at the Feb. 9-25 games is to include officials, athletes, a cheering group, journalists, an art troupe and the taekwondo demonstration team. South Korea has also sent a group of officials to North Korea to inspect preparations for a joint cultural event at the North’s scenic Diamond Mountain and a practice session for the countries’ non-Olympic skiers at the North’s Masik ski resort. The Koreas plan to hold the two events before the start of the Olympics.

South Korea hopes to use the Olympics as an opportunity to improve cross-border ties following a period of tension over the North’s rapidly expanding nuclear weapon and missile programs. The resumption of inter-Korean talks is key for the policies of liberal South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who wants Seoul in the driver’s seat in international efforts to deal with the North Korean nuclear threat.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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