North Korea is said to have agreed to withdraw from the upcoming Tokyo Olympics due to fears that its athletes may contract the coronavirus.
To avoid an outbreak of coronavirus cases, North Korea agreed to cut almost all ties with the outside world in 2020. While experts dispute Pyongyang’s assertion that the country has not seen a single case of Covid-19, the country has not confirmed a major outbreak and there have been no signs that one has occurred.
According to the Russian Embassy in Pyongyang, foreign diplomats and relief workers have also left the country en masse in recent months, citing food shortages and serious restrictions on daily life.
North Korean officials declared Tuesday that the nation would not participate in this summer’s Games in order to “shield players from the world public health crisis triggered by Covid-19,” according to a study published Tuesday on DPRK Sports, a state media outlet focusing on sports affairs.
The DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) Olympic Committee made the decision after a video conference meeting with committee representatives and sports officials on March 25 in Pyongyang, according to DPRK Sports.
The Games are expected to take place from July 23 to August 8 this year. From August 24 to September 5, the Paralympics will be held.
This is the first time North Korea has been absent from the Olympics since boycotting the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and the 1988 Seoul Olympics. The leaders of the two Koreas decided in 2018 to seek co-hosting the Olympic Games in 2032, but inter-Korean talks on the subject ceased in 2019.
The Olympics were initially planned for 2020, but due to the pandemic, organizers were forced to postpone the event for the first time in the event’s history.
On March 25, the Olympic Torch Relay, the first event of the Games, began. The Olympic Flame is currently being carried through Japan by 10,000 athletes through 47 prefectures in a 121-day journey from Fukushima to Tokyo.
However, with mounting logistical problems and fears about the pandemic, the resumption of the Games was a divisive decision. Officials in Japan have expressed concern about a potential “fourth wave” of the pandemic, and the Olympic Torch relay events in Osaka have been cancelled due to an increase in cases.
Despite the fact that public interest for the event in Japan remains low, organizers have forged ahead. This year’s Games, on the other hand, are likely to be very different. Owing to the prevalence of the coronavirus in Japan and abroad, the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee announced last month that foreign spectators will be denied entry. The committee also stated that traveling fans would not be permitted to attend the Paralympics.