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Two Koreas discuss making joint Olympic team

Written by: Staff
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SEOUL, June 29 (Reuters) North and South Korean officials met today in a bid to make a symbolic dream a reality by fielding a joint team for the 2008 Beijing Olympics as well as the Asian Games in Doha later this year.

Delegates from the South left for a meeting at Kaesong, just north of the heavily fortified Demilitarised Zone that divides the peninsula.

A South Korean Olympic official said he could not specifically discuss what would be on the agenda for the one-day meeting.

Still technically at war after the 1950-53 war ended with no peace treaty, the two Koreas first considered competing as a joint team for the 1964 Tokyo Games, but years of acrimony and military tensions meant it remained just an idea.

Sports officials from the two Koreas agreed in November 2005 to compete as a single sports team in Beijing and Doha.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge has said it is up to the Olympic committees of the two nations to work out a plan for a joint team but the IOC will try to help make the dream of the two Koreas a reality.

The two Koreas have marched together at Olympic Games, most recently at this year's Winter Games in Turin, but competed as separate teams.

A key question for the talks will be whether the joint team will seek a fair balance of athletes from the North and South or put together the most competitive team possible.

At the 2004 Olympics in Athens, South Korea won 30 medals, including nine golds, while North Korea tallied five with no golds.

If slots for athletes are allocated on a quota system by country, the unified team would likely be less competitive and create bitterness among top athletes left out of the squad, according to some South Korean officials.

North and South Korea competed as a single team in an aborted experiment in soccer and table tennis in the early 1990s.

REUTERS PM BST1048

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