France will skip the 2018 Winter Olympics near North Korea if safety can’t be guaranteed

Safety on the mind.
Safety on the mind.
Image: AP Photo/Matthias Schrader
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It was bound to happen.

The tension over North Korea has prompted a country scheduled to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics to openly state it will skip the games if security cannot be guaranteed. The competition will be held Feb. 9 to 25 in Pyeongchang, South Korea—just 50 miles (80 km) from the North Korean border.

If the crisis deepens and “our security cannot be assured, the French Olympics team will stay at home,” the country’s sports minister, Laura Flessel, told RTL radio yesterday (Sept. 21) (link in French). She added that the situation hasn’t yet reached that point, but she’s not the only one warily keeping an eye on it.

“We are monitoring the situation on the Korean peninsula and the region very closely,” the International Olympic Committee said in a statement last month.

IOC official Gian Franco Kasper recently told SID, a sports subsidiary of the news wire AFP, that the committee has no “plan B” to move the games should the security situation deteriorate. But he admitted the topic has come up in conversation.

“In personal conversations, it is certainly a topic, and I have read that Sochi or Munich [could] come into play… But I think it would be wrong now to arrange a plan B. To burden a replacement venue with such a big commitment wouldn’t be justifiable, and we have a responsibility to Pyeongchang.”

Still, he worried that some countries might decide to keep their contestants at home: “What I fear is that some nations may boycott the Games, because they have concerns for their athletes.”

Now it’s clear that France, for one, is mulling it over.