Summer Olympics Notebook : North Korea Insincere in Its Request to Act as Host, Samaranch Says
Juan Antonio Samaranch, president of the International Olympic Committee, has told a South Korean newspaper that he realized as early as May, 1987, that North Korea was not sincere in its negotiations to act as co-host for the Summer Olympics.
At that time, the IOC sent two emissaries, Romanian IOC member Alexandru Siperco and Internal Management Director Roland Charbon, to North Korea to determine whether that country was capable of staging events.
“We asked that they be allowed to cross from the south to north at Panmunjom (a village near the demilitarized zone), but they were denied access,” Samaranch said in an interview with The Korea Herald, an English-language newspaper in Seoul.
“It took our people two days to travel from Hong Kong to Beijing to North Korea. When they did not allow the two representatives to cross, I knew they would not allow the Games.
“From the very beginning I had the feeling they were not thinking of any agreement. I know these two countries (North and South Korea) well. I am disappointed but not surprised.”
The International Amateur Boxing Assn. (AIBA) will decide Thursday whether to allow Israel’s three boxers to compete because boxers from that country participated this summer in a tournament in South Africa.
The AIBA, President Anwar Chowdhry of Pakistan said Monday, can sanction countries that have contacts with South Africa.
Israel’s delegation head, Uri Afek, confirmed that four boxers went to South Africa and that they were subsequently banned for life. The director of the Israeli boxing federation, Samson Am-Shalem, reportedly was dismissed.
“Four relatively unknown Israeli boxers, certainly not world class, visited South Africa two months ago,” Afek said. “They were not representing the country, they traveled as individuals, and they have nothing to do with the three boxers we have entered for the Olympics.”
Samaranch told The Korea Herald that he is satisfied with Afek’s explanation.
“In my opinion, the Israelis have taken the proper action,” he said. “Whether it’s enough for the AIBA, I do not know.”
In the same interview with The Korea Herald, Samaranch said that he felt betrayed by the British Olympic Assn. (BOA), which he said influenced him to offer a special invitation for two-time 1,500-meter champion Sebastian Coe to compete in the Olympics.
After Coe did not make the British team, Samaranch said that he contacted the British Amateur Athletic Board (BAAB), which governs track and field in the country, to see whether it “could find some way to enable him (Coe) to compete in the Games.”
He said that the BAAB responded that it would have no objections to a special invitation from Samaranch to Coe, a plan he said later was endorsed by the BOA.
But after the invitation from Samaranch to Coe was criticized throughout the world, British officials blamed the IOC President for meddling in their affairs. Samaranch withdrew the invitation.
“The special invitation idea was theirs, not mine,” he said. “I like Seb very much. I am only a human being. I am not sorry for what I did, but I was pushed by many English.”
Disappointed because they won only one gold medal in Los Angeles, South Korean boxers complained of judging biased in favor of the United States. After one particularly controversial loss by South Korean welterweight Kim Dong Kil to American Jerry Page, the vice president of the South Korean delegation, Oh Soo In, threatened to withdraw his team.
That has led to speculation among some U.S. boxing officials that South Korea will seek revenge in Seoul.
“We had nothing to do with the judging, but we are going to get it in the neck in Seoul,” an unidentified U.S. boxing official told the French press agency.
But Oh said South Korean judges will not be biased against the Americans. “To even talk of such a thing is negative,” he said. “That was a long time ago, and it has been forgotten. The one thing we learned at Los Angeles was that the judging must be fair.”
If any of the 14,000 athletes and officials at the Olympics are killed by terrorism, accident, food poisoning or disease, an insurance policy will pay benefits of up to $14,000, an official told the Associated Press.
Additional benefits of up to $10 million would be paid in the case of death or disability for which the Seoul Olympic Organizing Committee is held responsible, said Dr. Cho Byung-ryun of the committee’s health services department.
Another policy covers all hospitalization costs for Olympic athletes or officials who are injured or become ill between Sept. 3 and Oct. 5, Cho said. The hospitalization benefits would be paid for up to one week after the Games close Oct. 2.
The International Olympic Committee has drawn up a charter to combat doping in sports, the Associated Press reported. “We shall be submitting this to sports ministers from all over the world at their meeting in Moscow next November,” Samaranch said.
“We sincerely hope that the whole of the international community will join with us so that this necessary fight may at last be conducted on the required scale.”
South Korean police disclosed that radicals had threatened a Munich-style massacre at the Seoul Olympics.
According to Reuters, police said a previously unknown group had warned it might carry out an attack similar to the Palestinian commando raid on the 1972 Munich Olympics, which killed 17 people, unless North Korea was allowed to jointly stage the Games.
The threat was contained in a letter signed by the “Crusade of Mudungsan” (a mountain in South Korea) and sent to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, last month.
Samaranch handed the letter over to police when he arrived in Seoul last week.
Police said they were investigating the threat and probing activist groups.
Reuters also reported that an Iranian who tried to sneak into Olympic Village has been deported. Police said he entered the country on a tourist visa.