Leonardo Anchondo

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     The 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea have been at the center of controversy in recent weeks. News regarding North Korea’s involvement in the Winter Olympics and Russia’s ban have highlighted what is supposed to be an event of national and global unity.

     On January 2, North and South Korea finished up their first diplomatic talk in two years. This will allow the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) to compete in the Winter Olympics for the first time since 2010. Their meeting took place in the demilitarized zone, where many other issues were discussed. Even though the two countries have been at odds since 1953, they plan on marching together for the opening and closing ceremonies of this upcoming Winter Olympics. As of right now, only two athletes have qualified, figure-skating duo Ryom Tae-Ok and Kim Ju-Sik. Along with that, North Korea’s hockey team has converged into one with South Korea, as they plan to compete together in hockey. Both North and South Korea had also initially agreed on a joint cultural event set for February 4, but North Korea has since canceled that event because they claim that South Korean media outlets have been too skeptical about the event. The event would have included North Korea’s best female pop group along with some other North Korean performers. Although it would have been a great achievement for both the North and South Korea, there was too much controversy surrounding it, as many South Koreans were skeptical of North Korea’s actual intentions.

    On the other hand, Russia has been banned from the Winter Olympics by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). This ban comes after multiple Russian athletes allegedly used performance-enhancing drugs. The reports state that over 1000 Russian athletes participated in state-sponsored doping. This, however, does not mean that Russian athletes cannot compete in the Winter Olympics; the Russian athletes will be required to compete under the tag “Olympic Athlete from Russia (OAR)” instead of just “Russia” and will have to compete with the Olympic uniform under the Olympic flag. Russian officials have decided not to attend the events, and Russian legislators have announced they are preparing retaliatory sanctions against the officials responsible for the Russian ban, which they plan to introduce after the Winter Games. The ban has prompted many high ranking Russians, including their president, to believe that this is an anti-Russian move, rather than just a simple ban because of a cheating scandal. The IOC, however, has since overturned bans issued to 28 Russian athletes allowing those athletes to compete, this puts Russia’s initial intentions of retaliatory sanctions on the IOC after the Winter Games in a questionable spot because of how many Russian athletes have been able to compete regardless of the doping scandal.

    The Winter Olympics, were, in the past, a time when you could just sit back and relax, and not have to be thrown into a political frenzy while watching the competitions. As of right now, every sport we enjoy has become the setup for politics. This past season, the National Football League (NFL) was not able to make it through the season without raising constant political issues regarding the National Anthem, and getting condemned by the U.S. president himself. This has been the case for many other sports as of recently. If we really want to enjoy the upcoming Winter Olympics, we need to stop making politics and sports converge into one, and let sports remain watchable.