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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Viewpoint – Olympic season can usher in diplomacy

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By Kathryn Kelman/editor-in-chief

As the Winter Olympics begin, many are wondering if the international athletic competition has the power to create peace between North and South Korea, now that their athletes are walking under a unity banner together.

North Korea will send a delegation to the Winter Olympics for the first time since 1992. In addition to the unity banner, North and South Korea will have a joint women’s ice hockey team.

While it is naive to think a unity flag and a hockey team will solve the nuclear crisis or decades of tension on the Korean peninsula, it is a step toward peace. After all, the communication impasse between the two has come to an end for now.

Sports diplomacy dates back to the origin story of the Olympic games. The hallmark of the opening ceremonies is the Olympic flame, which is the symbol of the “Olympic truce.”

In the modern world, ping-pong diplomacy helped thaw tensions between the U.S. and China. Rugby diplomacy calmed threats of a civil war in South Africa after Nelson Mandela was elected. Until 2017, wrestling eased relations between the U.S. and Iran.

Sports have always been a powerful symbol of national identity, and they passionately captivate the world during international competitions like the Olympics and the World Cup. Those competitions are times when nations set aside political conflicts for athletic battles on the pitch or the slopes.

Of course, sports diplomacy alone does not create change, but as we’ve seen, sports can get the ball rolling and prepare public opinion for a different kind of relationship with a longtime rival.

South Korea, and much of the world, is hopeful that the North’s involvement in the games will prevent an attack that would overshadow the event.

Therein lies the value of sports diplomacy. The games bring the world together and create a space for nations to pursue peace talks that have the potential to benefit all of us in the end.

Whether peace between the two will last after the games conclude is unknown, but they do have this time under the Olympic truce to discuss a long-term one as this symbolic demonstration of reconciliation hopefully spurs diplomacy.

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