PYEONGCHANG (AFP) – Olympic officials played down a suggestion that the unified Korean ice hockey team could be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize yesterday and said there had been “no formal discussion” about proposing IOC chief Thomas Bach for the honour.
Mark Adams, spokesman for the International Olympic Committee, said there had been “no consideration whatsoever” within the body of nominating the joint Korean team, following a suggestion by American IOC member Angela Ruggiero.
“From an IOC administrative level there’s been no consideration whatsoever of this. Obviously members are able to have their own personal views… but there’s been no discussion,” he said.
When asked if Bach should be proposed for the prize, after helping broker North Korea’s attendance, Adams said: “There’s no formal discussion yet at all.”
Bach is scheduled to visit North Korea after the Games, where their athletes marched together with South Korea at the opening ceremony. The two Koreas also formed their first unified Olympic team in the women’s ice hockey.
North Korea’s participation has triggered a burst of reconciliation with South Korea, including a visit by Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong and an invitation to Pyongyang for South Korean leader Moon Jae-in.
Ruggiero, who is head of the IOC athletes commission and a former Olympic ice hockey gold medallist, said it was a personal opinion that the Korean team should be nominated.
“I have heard a lot of support from other members just saying this is symbolic, this is what the Olympics is all about,” she said.
“It’s not about an individual or sport or country. I’m happy that it’s resonated that way and it’s starting the conversation and encouraged to have that dialogue with other members and all stakeholders for that matter.”
Despite the rapid warming of ties – which follows months of missile tests and threats of war – some South Koreans are sceptical and US Vice-President Mike Pence warned the North was trying to “hijack” the Games.
In an interview on Monday, Bach dismissed fears North Korea was using the Games for political purposes, calling their participation a purely sporting matter.
“This is about sport and this the IOC made very clear,” Bach said. “This is about the role of sport to build bridges, to open doors and nothing more.”
At the joint team’s opening match – an 8-0 thrashing by Switzerland – Bach sat with Moon to his right and the North Korean delegation to his left, and addressed the players afterwards.
“You’ve given everything, you’ve fought well and tomorrow you’ll come to understand the full importance and significance of this,” Adams quoted Bach as telling the team.