Athletes from North and South Korea will march together behind a unification flag during opening ceremonies at the Olympics — the first time at the games by the countries of the divided peninsula.
International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch announced the agreement for the joint march today during a speech at the Sydney Opera House opening the IOC’s annual meeting.
“I think this is very good news for sport, for the Olympic family and also for the Games of Sydney,” Samaranch said.
Details were finalized in a meeting between Samaranch and officials of both Korean delegations, then approved by the IOC executive board.
Will Wear White Uniforms
The athletes will wear the same white uniforms for Friday’s opening ceremony; during the games, however, they will compete as separate countries, with their own uniforms, flags and anthems, Olympic officials said.
The Koreas remain technically in a state of war because their three-year conflict in the early 1950s ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.
South Korean ministers raised the Olympics issue with their counterparts during recent talks in Pyongyang, the capital of the communist North.
“It’s not so complicated to march together,” South Korean IOC executive board member Kim Un-yong said last week. “There is no deadline. We will do everything to promote peace, dialogue and cooperation. We are willing to go to the last minute.”
Kim said he understood the North Koreans were concerned their team, numbering around 50 athletes, would barely be noticed among the 400-strong South Korean team.
Samaranch sent letters to the leaders of both countries before June’s historic summit between South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il in Pyongyang.
Samaranch proposed that all Korean athletes march jointly under the Olympic flag, which would be followed by the flags of each country. South Korea quickly accepted the proposal.
The North Koreans said they didn’t see the need for the two national flags because the countries’ ultimate goal is unification.