PYEONGCHANG COUNTY, SOUTH KOREA – All eyes are on South Korea, where the Olympics Opening Ceremony will take place Friday night.
The games are supposed to be a time of peace, and friendly rivalries on the ice and the slopes. Although the lead up to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang has highlighted certain global tensions. Also in the spotlight, diplomacy, that could tee up what’s next in the region.
North Korea’s Olympic overtures began with well-wishes to the south ahead the games, in Kim Jong Un’s New Year’s Address.
Next came talks, then plans to march under one flag, and a Unified Women’s Ice Hockey Team.
Not everyone has warmed up to standing with a neighboring dictator, or hundreds of North Koreans, including a pop star, the head of North Korea’s parliament, or Kim Jong Un’s Sister. This is the first time any member of the dictator’s family will visit South Korea.
All of it, amid North Korea’s heightened tensions with the U.S.
In a State of the Union Address light on foreign policy, President Trump did take pointed jabs at Kim Jong UN’s regime, the cruel dictatorship in North Korea.
The father of Otto Warmbier, the American College student who died after imprisonment in North Korea, was in the chamber that night, and is also part of Vice President Pence’s American Delegation to Pyeongchang for the opening ceremonies.
Also adding to Olympic dynamics is that Russia has been banned from fielding a team after doping violations.
Athletes deemed eligible by the International Olympic Committee will wear a uniform that says, “Olympic Athlete from Russia,” and with any medal ceremony, only the Olympic anthem will play.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has said he hopes the Pyeongchang games will be an opportunity for cooperation among the entire international community, and especially, a way to build relationships in Asia.
The real question remains what happens after the closing ceremonies? With key players hosting the next two games, North Korea could be a factor again and again. The 2020 Summer Olympics will take place in Tokyo, Japan. The 2022 Winter Games will be in Beijing, China.