The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has suspended North Korea’s membership, barring the country from the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, due to its refusal to send a team to the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games.
Thomas Bach, President of the IOC, also confirmed that the North Korean Olympic Committee would not receive any financial support throughout the suspension.
North Korea refused to send a team to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics citing COVID-19 concerns, stating that it wished to protect its athletes from the virus.
The issue of the pandemic’s impact on the games had been a controversial one both inside and outside Japan, with debates occurring regarding the number of international and domestic spectators allowed to attend as well as surrounding advertising arrangements.
In a statement, the IOC commented: “The IOC provided reassurances for the holding of safe Games and offered constructive proposals to find an appropriate and tailor-made solution until the very last minute (including the provision of vaccines), which were systematically rejected.”
Despite the suspension, the IOC has also made it clear that should any athletes from North Korea qualify for the Winter Games, it will ‘take an appropriate decision in due course for the athlete(s) concerned’.
This could mean that athletes from the reclusive country will be able to participate in the tournament, but will not be able to compete under their national flag.
In addition, Bach also commented on the ongoing situation in Afghanistan, where the capital city of Kabul has fallen to Taliban insurgents following the withdrawal of US-led military forces.
The President announced that none of the athletes representing the country returned home, with five participating in the Olympics and two competing in the Paralympics.
“As a result of all our efforts, all athletes from Afghanistan, who participated at the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 are outside the country,” he explained.
“Two winter sports athletes are also outside the country and continue training, hoping to qualify for Beijing 2022. Furthermore, a significant number of members of the Olympic community in Afghanistan received humanitarian visas and could leave the country.”
Bach further detailed that the IOC is continuing to assist people trying to escape Afghanistan, whilst noting that around a hundred had ‘enjoyed the benefits of their efforts.’