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27 September 2017, 12:53 | Percy Christensen
With tensions on the Korean peninsula rising, France on Thursday became the first nation to publicly raise the possibility of skipping the February 9-25 Pyeongchang Olympics on security grounds.
Attracting tourists to Pyeongchang, some 180 kilometres east of the capital Seoul, has always been a concern not just for organisers but also the International Olympic Committee.
Participants in the Games - the first Winter Olympics hosted by an Asian nation outside Japan - had not previously raised safety concerns publicly.
North Korea, which conducted a sixth nuclear test on September 3 to global condemnation, said on Friday it might test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean after U.S. President Donald Trump threatened to destroy the reclusive country.
South Korean soprano Jo Su-mi performs during an event at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NY on Wednesday to promote the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. "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 IOC said it was helping North Korea prepare its athletes for the Games and would cover costs of their equipment if needed.
According to AFP news agency, during a media interview Thursday, France's Minister of Sports Laura Flessel said that "if security can not be assured, the French Olympics team will stay at home".
The IOC has said it is not contemplating any "Plan B" for the Games.
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USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said: "Our stance on this is fairly clear, and we recognize the rights of athletes to express themselves".
Earlier this month, the International Olympic Committee awarded Los Angeles the 2028 Games, which will mark the first time the Summer Olympics have been held in the USA since 1996.
Both have since taken a step back, with Flessel reaffirming France's plans to compete at PyeongChang, and Stoss saying he didn't think the geopolitical situation in Asia would have any bearing on the 2018 Olympics.
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.
"Buying tickets was considered one of the ways to support the Olympic Games considering the recent slow ticket sales", federation official Shon Kyung-ae told Reuters.
While some athletes left open the possibility of making a political statement at the Winter Games, others said it was out of the question.
No athletes from North Korea had qualified so far, Chang said. But none of those (conditions) exists at the moment. "I think the hardest thing is that all of us would love to just stick to sport - but if you want us to be role models to kids then you need to stand for more than just sports".
North and South Korea remain technically at war after their 1950-53 conflict ended with a truce and not a peace treaty.
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