Tokyo Olympics: North Korea’s sports ministry said on Tuesday that it will not participate in the Tokyo Olympics this year to protect its athletes amid the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the official version of North Korean authorities, the Olympic committee in the country had a meeting on March 25 where it took this big decision. Sports Minister of the country Kim Il Guk was also present at the meeting.
“The committee decided not to join the 32nd Olympics Games to protect athletes from the global health crisis caused by the coronavirus,” the official statement read.
This decision comes despite the country’s regime claiming that the country has been without any COVID cases. However, experts believe that the real condition in the country may be quite bad as North Korea does not have a very effective healthcare system.
Reactions have already started coming in from various quarters. South Korea has expressed regret over the decision of their neighbours while Japanese Olympic Minister Tamayo Marukawa told media that he is waiting for more details and an official communication.
The Tokyo Olympics were supposed to happen last year but got postponed due to COVID-19 pandemic. The games are set to take place this year but there is opposition to it. According to one survey, Around 80% people of Japan are in favour of postponing the Olympics or going the whole hog and cancelling it altogether.
While not a major force in world sports, North Korea does have some top-level athletes, in disciplines like wrestling, weightlifting, gymnastics, etc.
In the 2016 Olympics, North Korea won two golds, three silvers, and two bronzes. Their contingent included 22 athletes along with a massive support staff, numbering around 230 people.
This decision of North Korea is a dangerous portent for the upcoming Summer Games. It could open the floodgates for other nations to pull out as well. With news waves of COVID striking several countries in Europe, other nations may come forward with the same excuse to not send their contingents.