THE OLYMPIC Games are often regarded as a welcome break from politics and difficult cross-border negotiations, but recent relations between the US and North Korea could compromise the 2018 Winter Olympics which are set to take place in the South Korean city of Pyeongchang in February.
A recent war of words between the North Korean leader and the so-called leader of the free world, has led to a succession of missile launches, threats of international strikes and Pyongyang’s most powerful nuclear test to date. This has rattled people the world over – apart from Donald Trump it seems, who continues to provoke the Supreme Leader over Twitter.
The traditional respite that the Olympics offers from worrying current affairs is sadly being overshadowed by the fears that Kim Jong Un might launch a missile strike.
Organizers of the sporting tournament, which takes place every four years, have expressed concern over tickets sales as they are 41 percent lower than expected with only 79 days until the opening ceremony event on February 9.
Many of the event locations sites are a mere 60 kilometers from the North Korean border, and the unpredictable nature of the neighboring country means safety cannot be assured.
“The interest level is very low for this Olympics,” Anbritt Stengele, founder of Sports Traveler, a Chicago-based travel agency, told USA Today. “We had Sochi (Russia) in 2014, and that interest level was lower than Vancouver (2010). But this one is even lower than Sochi. I would just classify it as extremely light interest. Sales have been stagnant.”
The potential threat posed by North Korea is also causing insurance companies to be less than forthcoming with inexpensive travel insurance. This is a deterrent in itself for potential Winter Olympic attendees.
KAYAK, a travel search, and comparison website, have also reported a lack of interest from people searching for flights and accommodation in Pyeongchang, compared to the 2016 Rio De Janeiro summer games, which garnered global attention.
“It’s safe to say that while both destinations gained interest in advance of the Games, Rio saw higher travel demand at this point,” David Solomito, vice president of North American marketing at KAYAK, told USA Today.
However, optimistically, organizers believe that ticket sales targets will be met and are hoping that enthusiasm towards the games will build as they get closer.