IOC approves Korean proposal for unified teams, joint march at Tokyo 2020


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The International Olympic Committee has approved a proposal by South and North Korea to form unified teams and have a joint march at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.

IOC President Thomas Bach said the IOC’s Executive Board approved these projects during a press conference in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Wednesday (local time).

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach (C) speaks during a IOC executive board meeting on March 26, 2019 in Lausanne. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

Back on Feb. 15, Bach met with representatives from South Korea and North Korea, and the two Koreas agreed to field joint teams in four sports for the qualification phase for Tokyo 2020. The four sports are: women’s basketball, women’s field hockey, rowing and judo.

Tokyo 2020 will be the first Summer Olympics in which the Koreas will have unified teams, should any of the teams qualify for the competition. At last year’s PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea, the two Koreas had a joint team in women’s ice hockey.

“We have decided that we will continue our effort and talks, regardless of any political decisions that have been taken in the last couple of weeks. We will, as in the past, concentrate on sports,” Bach said. “We’ll continue to support athletes from North Korea in qualification and preparation.”

Officials in Seoul are hoping the two Koreas will have more unified teams, possibly in canoeing or table tennis. Bach stated, “We’ll keep (in) contact with the two governments and two national Olympic committees on any additional joint activity.”

Women’s field hockey in Tokyo will feature 14 countries. There are two Olympic berths available at each of the three International Hockey Federation (FIH) Women’s Hockey Series Finals in Ireland, Japan and Spain in June. South Korea has qualified for the event in Ireland from June 8 to 16 and will be up against the Czech Republic, France, Ireland, Malaysia, Scotland, Singapore and Ukraine. Only the top two from that group will qualify.

Four more Olympic berths will be at stake during the 2019 Women’s Hockey Pro League competition, which will conclude in June.

Finally, four additional spots will be distributed based on FIH world rankings as of Sept. 20.

In women’s basketball, 12 nations will play in the Olympics, and host Japan and the reigning world champion the United States have already secured their spots. That will leave everyone else to vie for the 10 remaining berths through a multiphase qualifying process.

In rowing, the two Koreas will try to earn quota places at the 2019 World Rowing Championships, running from Aug. 25 to Sept. 1 in Ottensheim, Austria.

In judo, the Koreas will look to have a joint team in the mixed team event. They sent a combined team to last year’s world championships in Baku, Azerbaijan. For Tokyo 2020, judokas will first have to qualify for individual events in their weight classes in order to take part in the team competition.

South Korea has been trying to schedule joint training sessions with North Korea in those four sports, but a Korean Sport & Olympic Committee official said the North has yet to respond to the South’s proposals on that front.

The Koreas had their first joint Olympic march at Sydney 2000.

Last year, they marched together for the opening ceremonies at PyeongChang 2018 and the Jakara-Palembang Asian Games in Indonesia.


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