'Violating the charter': North Korea banned from 2022 Winter Olympics

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Kim Jong-Un, pictured here in North Korea.
North Korea has been banned from the 2022 Winter Olympics. Image: Getty

North Korea has formally been banned from the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing as punishment for withdrawing from the Tokyo Olympics.

North Korea refused to send athletes to Tokyo for the 2021 Games (postponed from 2020) due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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The country withdrew its team in April citing a need to protect athletes from the "world public health crisis."

But that decision has backfired brutally, with International Olympic Committee boss Thomas Bach handing down heavy sanctions on Wednesday.

"They were violating the Olympic Charter and did not fulfil their obligation as stated in the Olympic Charter to participate," Bach said at a news conference after an IOC executive board meeting.

Bach said the the North Korean Olympic committee is suspended through 2022 and the exclusion could be extended.

Their refusal came after rejecting all of the IOC's proposals over coronavirus safety protocols "until the very last minute including the provision of vaccines", an IOC statement pointed out.

It said the North Koreans had received clear warnings about the consequences of carrying out their first boycott of a Summer Games since Seoul in 1988.

Bach also announced the North Korean national Olympic body will now forfeit money it was due from previous Olympics.

The unspecified amount - potentially millions of dollars - had been withheld because of international sanctions.

However Bach said individual athletes from North Korea who qualify for the Beijing Winter Games could still be allowed to compete, possibly under the Olympic flag rather than their own country's.

Russia was banned from the Tokyo Olympics, however athletes could still compete as part of the Russian Olympic Committee.

Thomas Bach, pictured here at the closing ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Thomas Bach speaks at the closing ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

North Korea's fall from grace after 2018 Winter Olympics

The suspension marks a steep drop in North Korea's Olympic status since the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea, where the International Olympic Committee tried to aid a diplomatic breakthrough.

Athletes from the Korean neighbours marched together in the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang and joined together in a women's ice hockey team.

North Korea sent 10 competitors to the 2018 Winter Games, none in 2014 at Sochi, Russia, and two to Vancouver in 2010.

Asked what the IOC's message would be to countries like North Korea and Afghanistan - where women risk losing the right to play sports - Bach said taking part in the Olympics can "show to the world how it could look like if everybody would respect the same rules, if everybody would live together peacefully without any kind of discrimination."

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Bach had earlier talked about the IOC supporting efforts to help athletes and officials leave Afghanistan with humanitarian visas and extending financial help for the country's potential Olympic competitors.

Bach said the rescue efforts, which began after the Tokyo Games and before the Taliban took control of Afghanistan last month, will continue.

"All athletes who participated at the Olympic and Paralympic Games at Tokyo, 2020, are outside the country. Two winter sport athletes are also outside of the country and continue training, hoping to qualify for Beijing (Winter Olympics)," he said.

"Furthermore, a significant number of other members of the Olympic Community in Afghanistan received the humanitarian visas and they could leave the country."

Bach later put the number who have been helped to leave the country in the "first phase" at about 100 and said that in some cases sporting bodies had asked their own governments to add names to their lists of people to help leave.

with agencies

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