Deal close on joint march by two Koreas
LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) -- Wearing identical uniforms and dispensing with their national flags, athletes from the two Koreas could march together behind the Olympic flag in September's opening ceremony of the Sydney Games.
International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio Samaranch received an apparently favourable response from North Korea on Thursday to his proposal for athletes from the two countries to parade as one behind the Olympic flat only at the Games Sept. 15-Oct. 1.
The IOC has also proposed that the Korean athletes wear identical "neutral" uniforms in the ceremonies. With the games less than 50 days away, a final decision is needed soon in order to get the common uniforms ready.
Otherwise, if the athletes wear their own national uniforms, it would be hard to pick out the 25-30 North Koreans among the South Korean team of around 300 athletes.
South Korea's Kim Un-yong, who traveled to Pyongyang for the summit, is a member of the IOC executive board. He has suggested that a traditional Korean folk song be played for the marching athletes instead of the respective national anthems.
The Koreas remain technically in a state of war because their three-year conflict in the early 1950s ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty.
North Korea, long one of the world's most reclusive and isolationist states, has begun opening up the outside world in recent months.
On other topics covered in Thursday's interview, Samaranch:
-- said he would be willing to testify if called as a witness in the trial of Tom Welch and Dave Johnson, the two Salt Lake bid officials indicted by the U.S. Justice Department last week on charges of trying to influence the votes of IOC members in the race for the 2002 Winter Games.
"Any time that there will be a request, as in the past, to give some explanations regarding the IOC, I am ready," said Samaranch, who was interviewed twice by U.S. investigators in the case.
"But I think that to go to testify again and so on, there must be new facts," he said. "Until now I cannot see any new facts."
Samaranch noted that all the IOC members cited in the indictment for receiving cash, scholarships or other inducements from Salt Lake bidders had either been expelled, reprimanded or forced to resign.
-- singled out transportation as the biggest challenge for Sydney organizers, noting that upwards of 300,000 spectators will travel each day by car, bus, train and ferry to the main Olympic site at Homebush Bay outside the city.
"Myself, I think I will take the boat," said Samaranch, who along with other IOC members and Olympic officials will be staying in a downtown Sydney hotel.
-- said he felt "much more comfortable" with preparations for the 2004 Games in Athens. Three months ago, Samaranch blasted Greek organizers for falling behind schedule and warned the games would be endangered unless drastic action was taken.
Since then, Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, the woman who led Athens' successful bid for the games, has taken over the organizing committee, while Premier Costas Simitis has assumed government responsibility for the games.
"With this close co-operation between the government and the organizing committee, I think they can get back the time they lost until now," Samaranch said.
In April, Samaranch said Greece's preparations had slipped from the "green light" to "yellow light" zone and were close to the dangerous "red light" stage.
"The organization is still in the yellow light, but there is a very important difference," he said Thursday. "Now, they are more near to the green light than to the red light."
-- said the IOC executive board is expected to forward the names of around 12 candidates for election as new members at the IOC general assembly in Sydney in September.
A reported 45 names have been proposed to a special nominations panel, which will submit the list to the board Friday.
The IOC, which currently numbers 113 members, is adding delegates as part of the reforms instituted following the Salt Lake scandal.