North Korea’s cheering squad arrive for Pyeongchang Winter Olympics

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South Korean people take photographs of members of the North Korean cheering squad at an expressway service area in Gapyeong. (Yonhap via Reuters)
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Members of North Korean cheering squad walk at an expressway service area in Gapyeong, South Korea. (Yonhap via Reuters)
Updated 07 February 2018
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North Korea’s cheering squad arrive for Pyeongchang Winter Olympics

SEOUL: A group of 280 North Koreans arrived in South Korea on Wednesday, one of the largest peacetime crossings of the inter-Korean border, to spur on athletes from the two Koreas at the Winter Olympics starting Friday.
The delegation, made up mostly of a 229-member cheer squad, reached a border checkpoint by bus at around 0030 GMT, Seoul’s Unification Ministry said.
In addition to the cheering squad, there were 26 taekwondo performers, 21 journalists and four North Korean Olympics committee members, including Sports Minister Kim Il-guk, the Unification Ministry said.
After security controls the group left for the Olympics venue in the alpine resort town of Pyeongchang.
At a rest stop along the way, female members of the cheer squad, all donning black fur caps, red coats and ankle boots, waved and smiled at reporters who were trailing them.
“Hello, hello!” one said, giggling shyly before getting back on her bus.
Their arrival comes a day after a North Korean ferry crossed the border carrying a 140-strong orchestra to perform during the Games.
Members of the orchestra were seen leaving the vessel for rehearsals at Gangneung Arts Center early on Wednesday, wearing the same outfits members of the cheer squad were seen in.
When one reporter asked whether they were fully prepared, one member quipped: “You’ll know once you see. It’s no fun if I tell you everything now,” according to the South’s Yonhap news agency.
The orchestra is scheduled to perform at Gangneung, near Pyeongchang, on Thursday and in Seoul on Sunday.
Aside from the sports officials, the group will be housed at Inje Speedium Hotel & Resort, a four-star luxury hotel roughly two-hours drive from the Olympic venue in Pyeongchang.
Days before the group’s arrival, workers at Inje Speedium had placed banners around the premises welcoming the North Koreans, reading “We are one” and “welcome.”
Police have been deployed to enforce safety at the resort.
The taekwondo performance team is scheduled to hold four shows during their stay in South Korea. Two demonstrations will be held near Pyeongchang, while the team will travel to the capital Seoul for the remaining two.
After the art troupe arrived on Tuesday in a ferry, which is also being used as accommodation, North Korea has asked South Korea to provide oil to refuel the vessel, the Unification Ministry said on Wednesday.
Oil is a sensitive item and has taken center stage in global efforts to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs, with Washington calling for a drastic cut in energy supplies to the isolated country.
North Korea has virtually no domestic oil production, and has traditionally imported its fuel demand from China and Russia.
In December, the UN Security Council unanimously imposed new sanctions on the North, seeking to ban nearly 90 percent of refined petroleum exports to the country by capping them at 500,000 barrels a year.
“There was a request for oil support during our discussions with the North after the ship arrived, and we’re reviewing it now,” ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun told a news briefing in Seoul.
Asked about concerns that South Korea was making exceptions to the sanctions, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said it was important not to let up pressure.
“We must not be fooled by North Korea’s ‘smile diplomacy,” he told a news conference in Tokyo.


Lewis Hamilton tells rivals ‘catch me if you can’

Updated 8 min 22 sec ago
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Lewis Hamilton tells rivals ‘catch me if you can’

  • Five-time world champion feeling confident of a sixth crown ahead of new season.
  • Pre-season testing going well in Barcelona.

BARCELONA: Lewis Hamilton has warned his rivals they had better get ready to catch his dust as he is feeling “better than ever” ahead of the season.
The 34-year-old Briton enjoyed a near flawless run to secure his fifth drivers’ title last year. He won 11 of the 21 races to beat Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel with two races to spare, and he expects the Italian marque to once again keep him on his toes.
“Ferrari are very strong,” Hamilton said in Barcelona on the third day of pre-season testing.
“It appears they have a better package than last year, which means it will be a bigger challenge for us.
“In the last few years, Ferrari has looked good from the very beginning so that’s to be expected.”
But he said it would be a mistake to draw any hard and fast conclusions from the evidence thrown up by testing.
“We’ll have a better idea I guess this time next week where we stand but still then we won’t know what fuel loads everybody is on and who is showing their cars and who isn’t.”
Hamilton, with a new two-year deal that will earn him £40 million ($52 million) a season, is buzzing after the winter recess.
“I feel in the best shape that I’ve been in,” he assured his fans, as he embarks on his quest for a sixth championship and record sixth consecutive constructors’ crown for Mercedes.
On a sixth title he shrugged: “I am not even focusing on that. It’s a new season, a new year, a new chapter and we have to approach like it’s our first.
“We’re going for number one, that’s how I approach it.
“But it’s not something that I allow my peers to talk about. It’s not what we are here for to focus on that number.”
He dismissed out of hand any notion of complacency setting in at his all-conquering team.
“We are always driven to do something new and to break boundaries and do stuff that no one else has done before but we are fully aware of the work that it will take to deliver something like that and it’s by no means like ‘yeah we are going for the sixth’ like it’s a relaxed thing.
“It’s not like that.”
Hamilton’s bid for title number six begins at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 17.