Sides still at odds over joint '08 Olympics team

Updated: December 1, 2006, 2:04 PM ET
Associated Press

DOHA, Qatar -- North and South Korea marched together Friday at the opening ceremonies of the Asian Games but remained at odds over how to field a joint team for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

The Koreas marched under a blue-and-white unification flag at the ceremonies in Doha, ahead of the region's biggest sporting event. South Korean men's basketball player Lee Kyu-sup carried the flag at Khalifa Stadium.

Representatives from the Koreas held two days of meetings before the Asian Games opening ceremony to finalize their plans to march together. Discussions of the team for Beijing were inconclusive but will continue, although the time has not been set, a South Korean Olympic Committee official said.

International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge, the head of Qatar's royal family and 50,000 spectators attended the opening ceremonies. A combination of live performance and hi-tech props helped the sellout stadium transform into a sea of illuminated orbs, flashing glow sticks, whirling fans and Qatari national flags.

The Koreas have marched together eight times since the Sydney Olympics in 2000, but the North's recent test of a nuclear weapon has deepened the rift between the two, which are still technically at war following the armistice that ended the Korean war in 1953. Their border remains one of the most heavily armed in the world.

North Korea was harshly criticized and hit with sanctions by the U.N. Security Council for its Oct. 9 nuclear test and a series of ballistic missile test launches in July.

Tension over the tests nearly scuttled plans for the two nations to march together at the Asian Games. North Korea had proposed the joint march, but South Korea expressed reservations until the last minute.

Forming the unified team for Beijing remains a tougher issue.

The two Koreas have never fielded a unified team for an Olympics and differ on how to select members of a joint team. The North is seeking a fixed percentage for its athletes, claiming that they are at a disadvantage because the South Koreans have more money for training facilities and greater opportunity to compete internationally. In particular, they're at odds over how to select teams for sports such as soccer.

More than 10,500 athletes and officials will attend the games, which run through Dec. 15.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

ALSO SEE