Winter Olympics | North Korean cheering group to arrive in South for games

A North Korean delegation, including 229 members of a state-trained cheering group, will arrive in South Korea today for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, officials said.

North Korea told the South that the 280-member group, which plans to cross the land border this morning, will also include officials from North Korea’s Olympic committee, journalists and members of a taekwondo demonstration team, Seoul’s Unification Ministry said.

Yesterday’s announcement came hours before a North Korean ferry carrying a 140-member art troupe was expected to arrive in the South Korean port of Mukho after being escorted by South Korean naval vessels.

The art troupe, led by Hyon Song Wol, also the leader of the famous Moranbong girl band hand-picked by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, will perform in Gangneung and Seoul on Feb. 8 and Feb. 11, respectively, before returning home.

The war-separated rivals are cooperating for a series of conciliatory measures during the Olympics in the South, which Seoul sees an opportunity to ease tensions with Pyongyang following an extended period of animosity over its nuclear ambitions. Skeptics say that the North is trying to use the Olympics to weaken U.S.-led sanctions and pressure and buy more time to advance its nuclear weapons and missiles program.

The Olympics will begin Friday with an opening ceremony in Pyeongchang, a relatively small ski resort town that will host the skiing, snowboard and sliding competitions. Gangneung, a coastal city about an hour’s drive away, will host the hockey, skating and curling events.

Security health

About 1,200 people working security at the Olympics are being kept in their rooms while they’re tested for norovirus.

Lee Hee-beom, chairman of the Pyeongchang Olympics organizing committee, said yesterday that they’ll be sequestered until they’re declared well.

He says results of tests on the workers will come out soon.

Pyeongchang’s Olympic organizing committee said that officials started investigating a norovirus outbreak after 41 security guards suffered diarrhea and vomiting.

Officials are examining food and water sources at a mountainside facility in Pyeongchang where the guards had been staying and also inspecting 18 other facilities that rely on groundwater.

Norovirus is a contagious virus that causes stomach pain, nausea and diarrhea. The most effective way to stop the spread is to practice good hand-washing and personal hygiene.

Russians waiting in Japan

Six-time Olympic gold medalist Viktor Ahn and three former NHL players are among 32 Russian athletes who filed appeals yesterday seeking spots at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

The 32 athletes all failed to pass the mandatory International Olympic Committee vetting — imposed as a result of Russian doping at the 2014 Sochi Olympics — and weren’t invited to the games.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport said it would likely hear the case today in Pyeongchang. If the Russian athletes force the IOC to invite them, it would mean the medal contenders in some sports change dramatically only days before the games open on Friday.

CAS added that as well as short-track speedskating great Ahn, the 32 include world cross-country skiing champion Sergei Ustyugov and world biathlon champion Anton Shipulin.

Also on the list are former NHL players Sergei Plotnikov, Anton Belov and Valeri Nichushkin, who had been considered possible candidates for the Russian team in Pyeongchang.

If figure skater Ksenia Stolbova is invited, she could compete as soon as Friday morning in the pairs short program component of the team event.

Some of the 32 Russians are already in Far East countries like Japan so they will be acclimatized and ready to travel to Pyeongchang if invited. MDT/AP

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