Safe hosting of PyeongChang Winter Olympics top priority: culture minister


Tensions have continued to rise in the region, following a series of missile tests by North Korea in recent months.

Olympics organizers sought on Friday to ease French concerns about next year's winter Games in South Korea, saying the safety of athletes was their priority and nations in the region had no doubts that the event would go ahead.

Matters have been escalated further by the increasing rhetoric between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

"The French team will not travel to the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang if its "security can not be assured, we will not put our team in danger", Sputnik quoted Laura Flessel, the country's sports minister, as saying". "I hope by the time the Olympics comes around the atmosphere and tensions of the political climate are different", he said, adding that he would support teammates should they express their views.

The Pyeongchang Winter Games will be held from February 9-25 only 80 kilometres (50 miles) from the heavily guarded border with the nuclear-armed North.

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Italy's Olympic committee said on Friday that it and other national committees had received reassurances from IOC President Thomas Bach last week at a meeting in Lima.

In a statement on Friday, the country's Olympic Committee did not mention any potential absence from the Games, referring only to the IOC as the focal point of any developments.

North and South Korea remain technically at war after their 1950-53 conflict ended with a truce and not a peace treaty.

"We will continue to prepare in the same way as with other global competitions that we take part in", a spokeswoman for the committee said.

"Our preparations continue in earnest and, as with all Games, we will continue to work with our state department and local organizers to ensure that our athletes, and our entire delegation, are safe", USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said in a statement on the USA team website.

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Russian Federation said security was each host country's responsibility and China's foreign ministry said it was not aware of any plans for the its Olympic team to not attend.

Gus Kenworthy, an Olympic freestyle skiing silver medalist who revealed to the public two years ago that he is gay, said he supported the National Football League players who were protesting. While no North Korean athletes have yet qualified for PyeongChang, South Korea has repeatedly said the doors are open for the North.

"The Government of Canada does not now have travel advisories in place for South Korea and recommends that Canadians exercise normal security precautions, which is the lowest of four risk levels". "We will not put our team in danger".

The chief of the International Ski Federation, Gian-Franco Kasper, dismissed any fears among athletes, saying the Pyeongchang Olympics would be the "safest in the world".

The IOC has said it is not contemplating any "Plan B" for the Games.

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"There is not even a hint that there is a threat for the security of the games in the context of the tensions between North Korea and some other countries", Bach said last week.