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.


Morocco could be part of joint bid to host 2030 World Cup with Spain and Portugal

Updated 20 November 2018
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Morocco could be part of joint bid to host 2030 World Cup with Spain and Portugal

  • Morocco beaten by US, Canada and Mexico bid to host 2026 World Cup.
  • Spanish PM says King Mohammed VI 'welcomed the proposal warmly.'

RABAT: Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Monday that he had pitched the idea of a joint bid between his country, Portugal and Morocco to host the 2030 World Cup.
“I made the proposal, firstly to the government then to King Mohammed VI to launch a shared application with Morocco, Portugal and Spain to host the 2030 World Cup,” Sanchez said in Rabat after a meeting with the monarch.
“It will be the first two-continent application, with Europe and Africa, and King Mohammed VI welcomed the proposal warmly.”
Earlier this year the King ordered the Royal Moroccan Football Federation to launch their own World Cup bid but the office of the Moroccan prime minister, Saad Eddine el Othmani, refused to comment on Sanchez’s statement when contacted by AFP.
The north African country has failed five times to bring the tournament to the southern shores of the Mediterranean, with the United States, Canada and Mexico most recently beating them to the 2026 competition.
Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay have proposed a bid to coordinate the 2030 event, which will mark 100 years since the first tournament.
Greece, Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia are also considering a joint bid, as are the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland.
The official bidding process is set to being in 2020.