The 23rd Winter Olympic Games are set to kick off on February 9 in South Korea’s Pyeongchang. However, the games are taking place amid growing security concerns, as the venue of the event is situated some 50 miles away from North Korea. Radio Sputnik spoke with sociologist Dr. Vida Bajc, about this situation.
Are you aware of any security protocol or plan of action should the safety of the venue be compromised?
Vida Bajc: When security issues are considered a whole array of different scenarios are envisioned and for every one of these scenarios there are solutions proposed and practice laid out if something should happen; they have a plan of action.
Do you think it could undermine the Olympics in any manner, and could it lead to a rescheduling of the event potentially?
Vida Bajc: There is a very high likelihood that all the teams will participate as planned. Rescheduling of the events is really unthinkable. The event is way too complex, it’s not like a wedding that you can just cancel it and have it some other time. Planning takes so long.
Do you think North Korea is capable of taking any provocative steps during the games?
Vida Bajc: There is this popular saying that is now being associated with the organization of such major events: Are these going to be the safest Olympics ever? We hear this every time the Olympics are in preparation. These would be the safest Olympics ever, or the safest event ever. They have reasons to say this, but also every time the Olympics is actually acted out this is an opportunity to perfect all the surveillance and security procedures that are being used to secure the events, so every time the Olympics is staged this is an opportunity to practice and perfect surveillance and security so they have reasons to say this will be the safest event.
What is your take on North Korea’s possible participation in the games? Could it actually diminish the existing tensions?
Vida Bajc: This initiative to have North Korea participate in any way, shape or form, even in symbolic ways, is very important because any kind of cooperation, any kind of showing intentions to cooperate is very good for the relationships between the two countries. I can envision some kind of symbolic participation from North Korea. It seems to me the International Olympic Committee is also ready to see this happen. As far as North Koreans are concerned I can envision that they would be happy to participate and from what we have seen from South Korea they have been making efforts to show to the world that they would like North Koreans to be a part of the games. How much they would be able to make things happen this time around is not clear, because the Olympics are around the corner, but maybe for the next Olympics in Tokyo or the next Olympics in Beijing; it’s all in the neighborhood, so perhaps they will all get together and see if they can make it work.
If the Olympics can’t be the venue then perhaps maybe the World Cup can. These things take time to be planned in advance and we are talking years not months. What’s important here though is that there is this discussion and there is this showing of good intentions; that’s important for the people. Now the politicians are playing their own games as always, but the people want to see that there are good intentions, that there is a desire to cooperate.
Dr. Vida Bajc is a sociologist at Temple University. Her latest book is titled “Surveilling and Securing the Olympics: From Tokyo 1964 to London 2012 and Beyond.”