Sliders from North Korea and South Korea may share a four-man sled at next month’s games, with coaching provided by top international officials from Italy and the United States. The sled wouldn’t be part of the actual Olympic competition, but one of the forerunning sleds sent down to test conditions before racing begins.
The plan hasn’t been finalized, and more talks are likely in the coming week at the International Olympic Committee headquarters in Switzerland.
International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation President and IOC member Ivo Ferriani of Italy initially presented the idea. The rival Koreas would each get two spots in the sled, and the team would be trained in the days leading up to the four-man competition by Ferriani and fellow IBSF official Darrin Steele — the CEO of USA Bobsled and Skeleton.
“This looks like it could happen,” said Steele, a two-time Olympian for the U.S. “I like the idea of supporting any kind of cooperation between North and South Korea. Sport is a great avenue for that.”
Steele’s involvement means the sled would have North Koreans working alongside at least one American at a time of political tension between the countries. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have traded rhetoric and insults over the last year, as North Korea has accelerated weapons tests and appears on the cusp of having a nuclear-tipped missile that could strike the U.S. mainland.
The IOC has said it views any cooperation between the rival Koreas during the Pyeongchang Games as “a great step forward in the Olympic spirit.”
During rare talks between the rival Koreas on Tuesday, North Korea agreed to take part in the Olympics by sending a delegation of officials, athletes, cheerleaders and journalists to Pyeongchang. There have been some talks about having North Korean hockey players skating with South Koreans.
These Olympics wouldn’t be the first to bring the Koreas together. Athletes from both nations have walked in several past Olympic opening ceremonies together under a “unification flag.”
Having U.S. sport involvement with North Koreans is also a nod to what became known as “Ping-Pong diplomacy,” born from a week of table tennis matches between U.S. and Chinese players in 1971. Those few days the teams spent together are credited with helping open China to the world and restoring diplomatic ties between the countries.