President Xi ‘Hates’ Doping, Vows Tough Stance For Beijing 2022

China’s President Xi Jinping speaks during an event to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Message to Compatriots in Taiwan at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on January 2, 2019. Mark Schiefelbein / POOL / AFP

Chinese President Xi Jinping has declared that he “hates” doping, laying out a tough stance against cheating at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.

Doping has overshadowed the Games in recent years, with Russia’s Olympic committee barred from last year’s competition in Pyeongchang because of performance-enhancing drugs.

Doping has also tainted China’s sporting record in the past decade, with some athletes stripped of Olympic medals.

Meeting with International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach in Beijing, Xi said he personally objected to doping and that China has “a clear and very strong policy” on the use of drugs in sport.

“I myself hate it,” Xi said at Thursday’s meeting, according to the official Olympic website.

“I would prefer to have clean Chinese athletes than a gold medal, or any medal at all.”

Chinese athletes who use performance-enhancing drugs will receive criminal punishments and jail terms as of this year, the official Xinhua news agency reported in December.

In 2017, a Chinese doctor told German media that there had been a systematic doping programme in China during the 1980s and 1990s across a range of sports.

Bach this week visited Beijing 2022 facilities, including the downhill skiing competition site, and said progress on venue construction was “very impressive”.

“For every venue we have visited here, we could see what the use for it would be after the Olympic Games so that the Chinese people can then really enjoy winter sports.”

Beijing hosted the 2008 Olympics and will be the first city to have staged both a Summer and Winter Games.

Norway’s Bjoergen Emerges Most Successful Winter Olympian

Norway's Bjoergen Emerges Most Successful Winter Olympian
Norway’s Maiken Caspersen Falla (2nd L) changes over with Norway’s Marit Bjorgen as they compete during the women’s cross country team sprint free final at the Alpensia cross-country ski centre during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games on February 21, 2018 in Pyeongchang. Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP

 

Norway’s Marit Bjoergen became the most successful athlete in Winter Olympics history on Wednesday as she took bronze behind a stunning win for USA in cross country skiing’s women’s team sprint free.

Bjoergen’s bronze with Maiken Caspersen Falla put her on 14 Olympic medals, outstripping fellow Norwegian Ole Einar Bjoerndalen who has 13 in biathlon.

Bjoergen, 37, is also the second most successful woman at either the Summer or Winter Games, trailing only Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina who compiled 18 medals.

Kikkan Randall and Jessica Diggins celebrated ecstatically as they edged Sweden by 0.19sec to win the first Olympic cross country title for the United States.

Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby and Johannes Hoesflot Klaebo won the men’s title by 1.71sec ahead of the Olympic Athletes from Russia, with France finishing third.

AFP

Tears And Cheers As Unified Korean Team Bows Out of Olympics

 

North Korea’s cheerleaders hold the Unified Korea flag and cheer after the women’s preliminary round ice hockey match between Switzerland and the Unified Korean team Jung Yeon-je / AFP

 

The joint Korean women’s ice hockey team ended their historic Olympic run Tuesday with a crushing 6-1 defeat to Sweden but still received an emotional standing ovation from the crowd.

The team was hastily assembled following a landmark deal between South and North Korea only a few weeks before the Pyeongchang Games, and has 12 North Koreans on its roster.

They have found little success on the ice, shipping 28 goals and scoring only twice in five games.

But they are a crowd favourite at the Games in South Korea, hailed as a potent symbol of the “Peace Olympics” in Pyeongchang.

The home support roared when the South Korean Han Soo-jin scored to tie the game in the first period, before the Swedes ran out easy winners.

For many, the unified team’s games have been about much more than the score and when the final buzzer sounded, all sides of the arena rose as one, accompanied by a deafening round of applause.

In return, the players bowed deeply.

The Korean team’s head coach, the Canadian Sarah Murray, broke into tears as she watched her players salute the crowd and hugged North Korean coach Pak Chul ho.

“All the sacrifices our players and team have been making, it was worth it,” Murray told reporters.

“The chemistry and the message that our players were able to send — that sports transcends the barriers… they did a great job.”

South Korean goaltender Shin So-jung added: “It is the first time to be cheered on by such a large crowd and I’m just so thankful.”

‘Message of peace’

The addition of North Korean players initially provoked a backlash in the South, with accusations that Seoul was depriving some of its own players the chance to compete at a home Olympics for political purposes.

But the sight of North and South Korean skaters on the ice together has touched many spectators, with an IOC official even suggesting that the Korean team be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

“The politicians made the decision… but our players and our staff are the ones that made it work,” said Murray, whose team always attracted a packed stadium and a swarm of media at each game.

“If the North’s staff was different, if the North’s players were different, if our players were different or our staff was any different, I don’t think this would have worked.”

International Ice Hockey Federation chief Rene Fasel has expressed hopes for a unified Korean team at the 2022 Beijing Olympics, referring to them as the bearers of “the message of peace”.

The players have struck up a rapport among themselves, even as they were thrashed time and time again, but suspect they are more likely to be on opposing sides in future.

“I think if we end up playing against each other again, South Korea versus North Korea, there’s definitely some hugs and some smiles,” said the South’s Randi Griffin.

AFP

Nigeria’s Adeagbo Has Bumpy Ride Into Olympic History

Nigeria’s Simidele Adeagbo competes in the women’s skeleton heat 1 run during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games, at the Olympic Sliding Centre on February 16, 2018 in Pyeongchang.
Mark Ralston / AFP

 

Africa’s long-awaited first Winter Olympics appearance in the women’s skeleton event has come to pass, with Nigeria’s Simidele Adeagbo sliding in heats one and two on Friday evening in PyeongChang, ending in 20th position.

Adeagbo, who only took up the sport six months ago, recorded times of 54.19s and 54.58s on an extremely cold night at the track, with the temperatures dipping below zero and ensuring a blistering pace on the hard ice.

She was the final competitor to race in heat one, the last of the 20 sliders, and in the first run she found the going a bit bumpy as she connected with the side of the track, though was not knocked off her sled.

In the second heat a few minutes later, Adeagbo was the first to fling herself headfirst down the ice, but could not improve on her time despite the vocal support of the Nigerian bobsled women at the venue.

She will have a chance to go again on Saturday though, in heats three and four.

More than one driver found their opening times affected by clipping the track with their shoulders.

Canada’s Mirela Rahneva was bumped up off her sled completely in heat one, but managed to hold on and keep going, while Korea’s Sophia Jeong found her helmet scraping along the track wall.

Kim Jong Un’s Sister In Historic Visit To South Korea

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong waves during the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Pyeongchang Stadium on February 9, 2018. Odd ANDERSEN / AFP

 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister joined athletes and officials from around the world at the South’s Winter Olympics Friday, the first member of Pyongyang’s ruling dynasty to set foot in its rival since the Korean War.

Kim Yo Jong was part of a diplomatic delegation led by ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam — the highest-level North Korean official ever to go to the South — as the Games trigger a diplomatic rapprochement between the rivals.

Ahead of the opening ceremony the South’s President Moon Jae-in shook hands with Kim Yong Nam at a leaders’ gathering in Pyeongchang, but Seoul’s Blue House said US Vice President Mike Pence did not and left before the event ended.

Both Washington and Tokyo are regularly threatened by Pyongyang, but Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did shake hands and exchange words with Kim, Seoul’s spokesman said.

Moon is scheduled to have lunch with the Pyongyang delegation on Saturday.

Their white Ilyushin-62 jet, marked in Korean script “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”, the North’s official name, and its tailfin emblazoned with a Northern emblem, touched down earlier at Incheon airport near Seoul, in a rare direct flight between the two halves of the divided peninsula.

The last member of the Kim family to set foot in Seoul was Yo Jong’s grandfather Kim Il Sung, the North’s founder, after his forces invaded in 1950 and the capital fell.

Three years later the conflict ended with a ceasefire rather than a peace treaty, leaving the two sides technically in a state of war.

Now the North is subject to multiple rounds of UN Security Council sanctions over its banned nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programmes, while the democratic South has risen to become the world’s 11th-largest economy.

Kim Yong Nam and Kim Yo Jong, both of them in dark coats with fur collars, were met at the airport by the South’s unification minister and other officials, exchanging pleasantries about the cold weather.

The leader’s sister looked relaxed, smiling calmly as she talked with them, before making her way through the terminal, with four bodyguards surrounding her closely, to take a high-speed train to Pyeongchang.

The delegation’s trip is the diplomatic high point of a Games-driven rapprochement between the two Koreas, with the dovish Moon pushing a “peace Olympics” that will open a door for dialogue to alleviate tensions and seek to persuade Pyongyang to give up its atomic ambitions.

But all eyes are on Yo Jong — a key member of the Kimdynasty that has ruled the impoverished, isolated nation with an iron fist and pervasive personality cult over three generations.

The family are revered in the North as the “Paektu bloodline”, named after the country’s highest mountain and supposed birthplace of the late leader Kim Jong Il.

Many analysts suggest Yo Jong may be carrying a personal message to Moon from her brother.

‘Charm offensive’

Tensions have been high on the peninsula since last year when the North staged its sixth and most powerful nuclear blast and test-fired intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMS) capable of reaching the US mainland.

Leader Kim and US President Donald Trump exchanged threats of war and personal insults, sparking global alarm and fears of a new conflict on the peninsula.

But Kim abruptly announced a plan to send athletes and high-level delegates to the Pyeongchang Winter Games in his new year speech, setting in motion a flurry of cross-border talks and trips.

The announcement — following months of cajoling by Seoul — is seen as a bid to defuse tensions and seek a loosening of the sanctions against it.

The North has sent a total of 22 athletes plus hundreds of cheerleaders and artistes for the Olympics and a state orchestra gave one of two planned concerts in the South on Thursday to a packed audience.

But Pyongyang also held a military parade the same day, displaying its hulking ICBMs in Kim Il Sung Square in a show of strength, and the diplomatic manoeuvres have met a backlash in the South, with many accusing Seoul of making too many concessions to its wayward neighbour.

Conservative activists also accused Pyongyang of “hijacking” the Games and have held angry protests, burning images of Kim Jong Un or the North’s national flag.

US Vice President Pence — who has not ruled out a meeting with the North’s delegates — on Friday called Pyongyang “the most tyrannical regime on the planet” as he met defectors at a memorial to the Cheonan, a South Korean corvette that sank in 2010, killing 46 sailors.

An international investigation concluded it had been torpedoed by a North Korean submarine, a charge Pyongyang denies.

Pence intended to counter “what Prime Minister Abe rightly called a ‘charm offensive’ around the Olympics” by the North, he said.

His objective was “to stand up for the truth”, he said, “and to recognise that whatever images may emerge against the powerful backdrop and idealism of the Olympics, North Korea has to accept change.”

North, South Korea Heads Of State Meet, Shake Hands

North Korea’s Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong (C) shakes hand with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in during the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Pyeongchang Stadium on February 9, 2018. PHOTO: Martin BUREAU / AFP

 

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and the North’s ceremonial head of state Kim Yong Nam met and shook hands Friday ahead of the Winter Olympics opening ceremony.

Kim Yong Nam, who is officially leading Pyongyang’s diplomatic delegation to the Games, met Moon at a leaders’ reception ahead of the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang.

Moon and his wife received their guests one by one and the two men smiled as they shook hands in a relaxed manner.

There was no sign of Kim Yo Jong, the influential sister of the North’s leader Kim Jong Un, who is part of Pyongyang’s delegation.

Kim Yong Nam is the highest-level Northern official ever to visit the South and was meeting his third South Korean president after participating in North-South summits in Pyongyang in 2000 and 2007.

On his left lapel, Kim wore a badge depicting the North’s founder Kim Il Sung and his son and successor Kim Jong Il, Kim Jong Un’s father.

Moon and his wife Kim Jung-sook both wore lapel badges of Soohorang, the dancing white tiger mascot of the Winter Games.

A seating plan for the dinner shown on South Korean television showed Kim Yong Nam seated at the top table, in between Olympics chief Thomas Bach and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, and directly opposite US Vice President Mike Pence.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was also among the group.

Washington and its ally Tokyo are regularly threatened by nuclear-armed Pyongyang.

North And South Korea To March Together At Winter Olympics Opening

 

This handout photo provided by South Korean Unification Ministry on January 17, 2018 shows South Korean chief delegate Chun Hae-Sung (L) and North Korean chief delegate Jon Jong-Su (R) leaving a meeting room after their working-level talks at the South side of the border truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitaraed zone dividing the two Koreas. AFP PHOTO / SOUTH KOREAN UNIFICATION MINISTRY

 

The two Koreas agreed Wednesday to march together under a single flag at the Winter Olympics opening ceremony and field a united women’s ice hockey team at the Games in a further sign of easing tensions on the peninsula.

North Korea also said it would send a 550-member delegation to the Winter Olympics and Paralympics in the South, Seoul said, as the two sides met to discuss athlete numbers in the latest in a flurry of cross-border talks.

Nuclear-armed Pyongyang agreed last week to take part in next month’s Pyeongchang Games which are taking place just 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that divides the peninsula.

Seoul has long sought to proclaim the event a “peace Olympics” in the face of tensions over the North’s weapons programmes — which have seen it subjected to multiple UN Security Council sanctions — and the discussions represent a marked improvement.

South Korean delegation members (R) shaking hands with North Korean delegation members during the working-level talks. AFP PHOTO / SOUTH KOREAN UNIFICATION MINISTRY

 

The two Koreas will march together under a unification flag — a pale blue silhouette of the whole Korean peninsula — at the opening ceremony for the February 9-25 Games, according to a press statement issued by the South.

They also agreed to form a unified women’s ice hockey team.

North Korea, however, declined to discuss plans to send a high-level delegation to the Games when the issue was raised by Seoul, the South’s vice unification minister Chun Hae-Sung said.

The statement additionally said that the South will send skiers to the Masikryong ski resort in the North for joint training with North Korean skiers. Chun clarified these would be non-Olympic skiers.

IOC meeting

“The South and North must continue working on remaining issues on the basis of today’s agreements,” Chun told reporters following the meeting at the southern side of the border truce village of Panmunjom.

“We hope the South and North will be able to make the Pyeongchang Olympics a peace Olympics,” he added.

Three officials from each side took part in the talks and the results will be discussed by both Koreas with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Saturday.

“This will then enable the IOC to carefully evaluate the consequences and the potential impact on the Olympic Games and the Olympic competitions,” an IOC spokesperson said.

“There are many considerations with regard to the impact of these proposals on the other participating (nations) and athletes,” with final decisions to be made on Saturday.

This file photo taken on April 06, 2017 shows South Korean fans waving “unification flags” as they cheer for North Korean players during the IIHF women’s world ice hockey championships division II group A competition match between South Korea and North Korea in Gangneung. Photo: JUNG Yeon-Je / AFP

 

The IOC must approve extra Olympic slots for the North’s athletes after they failed to qualify or missed deadlines to register.

The North agreed to send 230 cheerleaders to support athletes from the two Koreas during the Olympics and to form a joint cheering squad with the South.

A 30-strong North Korean taekwondo delegation will also visit the South next month for demonstrations in Pyeongchang and Seoul.

Pyongyang also said it will send a separate 150-member delegation of supporters, athletes, performers, journalists and delegates to the Paralympics in March.

The statement said Seoul will “guarantee the safety and convenience of North Korea’s delegation”, which Chun said referred to transportation, accommodation and other necessary facilities.

South Korea will need to find ways to accommodate the North Korean delegation without violating UN Security Council sanctions, which block cash transfers to Pyongyang.

Any blacklisted officials in the North’s high-level delegation could be another potential stumbling block.

A North Korean delegation will visit the South next Thursday to inspect the facilities at Pyeongchang.

In another meeting on Monday, the two reached an agreement over a trip by a 140-member North Korean orchestra to the South to hold concerts in the capital and in Gangneung, one of the Games’ venues.

Frosty reception

The talks come after North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un abruptly announced his willingness to take part in the Games in his New Year speech.

The move was seen as a bid to ease searing tensions on the peninsula and was rapidly welcomed by Seoul.

Last year, the nuclear-armed North tested missiles it said are capable of reaching the US — its “enemy” — and Kim traded threats of war with President Donald Trump.

Seoul’s proposal for a unified team in women’s ice hockey has met a frosty reception in South Korea, where critics accused the government of robbing some of its own players of the opportunity to compete at the Olympics for the sake of politics.

Tens of thousands have signed dozens of online petitions on the presidency’s website urging President Moon Jae-In to scrap the plan.

Chun emphasised the need for IOC approval but added: “I think it is quite meaningful to show the South and North in harmony.”

South Korea only qualified for the ice hockey tournament as hosts, rather than on merit, and are not seen as medal contenders.

sh/eb/qan

© Agence France-Presse

Beijing Unveils Winter Olympics Emblems With Fanfare

Picture taken during the official ceremony which unveiled the logo for the 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Game in Beijing on December 15, 2017. FRED DUFOUR / AFP

 

China unveiled emblems for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics inspired by Chinese calligraphy on Friday, in a star-studded ceremony featuring songs from actor Jackie Chan and pianist Lang Lang.

Beijing, which hosted the Olympics in 2008, will become the first city ever to hold both the summer and winter Games as the country looks to burnish its sporting prestige.

At the glitzy ceremony in the Chinese capital, a dramatic drumbeat accompanied the countdown to reveal the Olympics logo: bold brushstrokes of colour resembling the shape of a skier as well as the Chinese character for “winter”.

The Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games emblem was similar in design and resembles the Chinese character for “flight” in calligraphy.

“The emblems combine Chinese culture and… the passion, energy and vigour of winter sports, the president of the Beijing 2022 Organizing Committee, Cai Qi, said on stage.

The country of 1.3 billion is home to roughly only six million skiers, but President Xi Jinping hopes that number will rise to 300 million in the coming years as he tries to turn the country into a winter sports powerhouse.

Cai said the Chinese government had to sort through some 4500 entries from designers before choosing the emblems, which are also meant to represent “a pursuit of excellence”.

During the show, Chan belted out the song, “Wake Up Winter” in English and Mandarin as clips of people playing winter sports played on a giant screen.

The ceremony, which was attended by former Chinese Olympians, took place at the futuristic “Water Cube” — former site for swimming events at the Beijing 2008 Summer Games.

International Olympics Committee President Thomas Bach said via video message that Beijing is set to “make history” as the first city to host both the summer and the Winter Games.

Beijing won the bid over only one other contender, Almaty, after other cities backed out over high costs.

China has had great success at the Summer Olympics, but its few Winter Olympics victories have been centred on speed skating.

The Chinese capital has the financial muscle and the political determination of a one-party state.

But the country still has scant top-class facilities for outdoor events and only about one metre of snow falls annually in the mountains north of Beijing, where alpine skiing events will be held.

The hosts will employ an elaborate artificial snow-making system, Beijing officials have promised.

AFP

Two Killed In Moscow School Shooting

A Moscow high-school student shot a teacher and a police officer dead and held more than 20 other students hostage in a classroom on Monday (February 3) before he was disarmed and detained, Police said.

This is coming just days before Russia hosts the Winter Olympics.

In a rare school shooting in Russia, the attacker entered his school in Northern Moscow carrying a rifle and held students and a teacher hostage in a biology classroom, police in the capital said.

Police later said that the attacker had been detained and had been led out of the school and into a waiting car. According to the Lifenews website, he initially shot one officer and then opened fire at others who arrived at the scene.

The shooting sent dozens of students scurrying out the school while a police helicopter landed in a snow-covered field outside.

It came with Russia in the global spotlight four days before it hosts the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi.