IOC President Thomas Bach hails ‘time of Asia’ at regional sports ministers’ meeting

Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, hailed a “time of Asia” in the Olympic Movement on Thursday as South Korea opened the inaugural meeting of sports ministers among Northeast Asian neighbors.

PyeongChang, host of the 2018 Winter Olympics located some 180 kilometers east of Seoul, is the host of the first meeting of sports ministers from South Korea, China and Japan. It was set up to promote sports cooperation among the three nations, which will take turns in hosting three straight Olympics starting with PyeongChang 2018.

The two-day conference kicked off at Alpensia Convention Center with bilateral meetings among Cho Yoon-sun, the South Korean sports minister; Liu Peng, secretary of the State General Administration of Sports in China; and Hirokazu Matsuno, the Japanese minister of sports. They will gather Friday for a trilateral meeting, after which they will produce a declaration.

In his congratulatory speech before the welcome dinner reception, Bach said the meeting is a “meaningful and very important occasion” that will ensure “a great success” for the upcoming Olympic Games in the region.

“Some scholars have said we’re living in the century of Asia, and in Olympic terms, I can confirm that this is the time of Asia,” Bach said. “Here on this continent, for the first time in history, you will host three consecutive Olympic Games.”

Bach was referring to the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics and the 2022 Beijing Winter Games that will follow PyeongChang 2018. But he said this isn’t the only indication of the rising influence of Asia, as all three nations placed inside the top 10 in medals at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics last month.

“These three Olympic Games in Asia are a unique opportunity for Asia and also for the Olympic Movement,” Bach added. “The Olympic Movement will have the opportunity to establish even closer links with Asia and with these three very important countries in Asia. For Asia, it will be a unique opportunity to show its unity.”

Against this backdrop, Bach thanked the three future Olympic hosts for undertaking the initiative for cooperation.

“With this cooperation, you will build many bridges,” he said. “And this is what the sport is about: building bridges between differences, creating unity and respecting diversity.”

He said the IOC will always be supportive of the three countries’ efforts for cooperation because it will be a “win-win situation for everyone involved.”

“It’s the time of Asia and I wish you can benefit the most from this great opportunity and from this great time,” he added.

Chief organizers of the three Asian hosts have already met to discuss cooperation. PyeongChang is the only first-time Olympic host in the group. Tokyo previously hosted the 1964 Summer Games and has a wealth of experience in holding international sports competitions. Beijing is the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Games, having staged the 2008 Summer Olympics. (Yonhap)

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