British Olympics chiefs have made plans to evacuate athletes from the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, amid increasing tensions in the region.
There have been concerns about the hosting of February’s Winter Games as tensions rise between North Korea and global powers, including its immediate neighbor South Korea and the US. Pyongyang continues to test-fire missiles in defiance of widespread condemnation.
British Olympic Association [BOA] chief Bill Sweeney said on Wednesday that the organization was working on an evacuation scenario for its athletes in the event of a North Korean attack during the Games.
“The South Koreans have lived with this for 60 years and tensions have gone up and down. There seems a higher level this time obviously,” Sweeney said, AP reported.
“We are working on all possible contingency plans. The only one you have in the situation of the extreme event you mentioned [about a potential North Korean attack] is evacuation.”
BOA boss Sweeney said, however, that he didn’t believe such drastic measures would be called for.
“We will go there with a clearly laid out evacuation plan if it is necessary. I don’t think it will be necessary. The health and welfare of the delegation is our number one priority.”
He also said that UK Olympic officials were in regular contact with the Foreign Office and British officials in South Korea regarding the perceived threat from the North.
Pyeongchang lies just 50 miles (80km) south of the North Korean border. Tensions have escalated in recent months following a series of missile tests by the North, as well as frequent barbs traded by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump.
The US leader has branded Kim “Rocket Man,” while vowing to “totally destroy” North Korea, should it further threaten the US or its allies. Pyongyang has promised no let-up in the development of its nuclear program.
Despite the current tensions and evacuation measures, Sweeney said that he had been more concerned about athletes’ safety ahead of the Rio Summer Games in Brazil in 2016. “I lost a lot more sleep going to Rio than Pyeongchang,” Sweeney said, according to AP.
“The security threat in Rio was a lot more personal, a lot more unpredictable. We were prepared against any opportunity around mugging and crime and the violent nature of Rio. They are things that are difficult to manage. South Korea as a country is really safe and secure, probably one of the safest you can go into.”
The Pyeongchang Games are due to begin on February 9 and continue until February 25. North Korea reportedly rejected an offer earlier in the year to send a unified team to the Games.