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Volume 7 No. 106


Hyundai Motors is taking Olympic visitors to a "very dark place" to show them a "path to a brighter future," according to Robert Sawatzky of CAMPAIGN LIVE. Its "jet-black pavilion," now widely-described as "the darkest building on earth," set in contrast to the "bright ice and snow of the Winter Games, is impossible not to notice." Some have described it as a "black hole, pulling bystanders in" toward "deepest space." That is "no coincidence." Sprayed with Vantablack VBx 2, derived from the darkest pigment on earth, the nanotechnology-developed exterior "absorbs 99% of the light that hits it." The effect, as described by its designer, architect Asif Khan, is not merely a "window looking into the depths of outer space" from afar, but "makes you feel on moving closer" and entering the building "as though you are being absorbed into a cloud of blackness." There are "no Hyundai cars on display." Hyundai Exec VP & CMO Wonhong Cho said, "Normally a commercial brand builds a pavilion to exhibit their own products and services. But this time we don’t display any cars. We just want visitors to touch and feel what Hyundai’s brand represents and also what Hyundai wants to talk about" (CAMPAIGN LIVE, 2/13).

North Korea may have captivated the world with its “charm offensive” at the Winter Olympics but "few south of the border are convinced," according to Harris & Song of the FINANCIAL TIMES. Global audiences have been "bombarded" with coverage of the North's presence at the Games. Suggestions that Pyongyang has "scored a diplomatic victory," however, are "prompting anguish" among South Koreans, many of whom harbor "deep reservations" about engaging with a nation that regularly threatens to turn Seoul into a “sea of fire.” Former Korea Institute for National Unification President Kim Tae-woo said, "People are very skeptical about the North's charm offensive, as well as the South Korean government's attempt to continue dialogue." Kim Jong-un on Tuesday continued his regime's PR campaign, saying that it was important to "boost the warm climate of reconciliation" between the two Koreas. Businessman Choi Won-eung, 64, said, "The intention of the charm offensive is not innocent. It all just looks like political propaganda to me." Korea Institute of Defense Analyses research fellow Kim Chul-woo, referring to the financial support Seoul has given Pyongyang to attend the Games, said, "Young South Koreans are not impressed with North Korea coming to the Olympics with their forks and spoons in hand" (FT, 2/13).

If this is what they want to show the world, think about how backward the rest of the people are.
Han Sun-woo
South Korean hockey spectator

South Korea counters the North "charm offensive" with its own cheerleaders.
Photo: getty images

FACE-TO-FACE: In London, Benjamin Haas wrote as they found their seats for the preliminary game between Sweden and the Unified Korean women's hockey team, South Koreans "peppered the Northern cheerleaders with questions, but the all-female squad only responded with tight-lipped smiles." It was the first time many South Koreans had "come face-to-face with their neighbours." But for the two sides, the meeting "was a sign of how far they have grown apart" after 65 years of division since the Korean war. Han Sun-woo, 25, who was "sandwiched" between two groups of North Korean cheerleaders, said, "They're very old-fashioned. I never experienced the 70s, but I imagine it was like that. I feel bad for them. If this is what they want to show the world, think about how backward the rest of the people are." At the end of each row, older male minders "sat still for the entire game," a reminder that "despite appearances, these women were also prisoners of one of the most brutal regimes in the world." For all the attention they commanded, the North Koreans "were not the only cheering squad on hand." In "stark contrast" to the tracksuited women from the North, four South Korean dancers also performed -- "dressed in cropped white T-shirts and pink hot pants while waving pom-poms" -- highlighting the "cultural chasm" that separates the two countries. The North Koreans "refused to acknowledge their fellow performers" (GUARDIAN, 2/12).

FINAL DECISION: EUROSPORT reported IOC President Thomas Bach revealed the agreement by the North and South Korean officials to allow their athletes to march together under the Unified flag was "made just four hours before the Opening Ceremony began." Bach: "That's a great moment and even when I see it now again it still gives me goosebumps and great emotions. Because this is the Olympic message as it should be. ... This is our mission." He added, "To tell you a little secret, the final decision about the joint march was taken just four hours before the ceremony actually started at 4pm in the afternoon. So you can get an impression of what happened there behind the scenes" (EUROSPORT, 2/13).

The POCOG hoped the Games "could serve as a platform to showcase some of the nation's cool tech," according to Bryan Harris of the FINANCIAL TIMES. In "fairness, they have not disappointed." Organizers "rolled out a 5G network," as well as skiing robots, cleaning robots and airport robots. But "where tech giveth, tech taketh: the opening ceremony got hacked." Organizers were "reluctant to admit it at first," but a full confession came over the weekend. POCOG spokesperson Jihye Lee said, "The technology issues experienced on Friday night were caused by a cyberattack." Now, "the question becomes: who was behind it?" North Korea is "in the midst a peace offensive with South Korea, so while an attack from Pyongyang would not usually be surprising, it would be a bit surprising this time." Murmurs from the cyber defense community are "instead suggesting Russia could be the culprit" (FT, 2/13).

Team GB's Dominic Parsons has gone from World No. 12 to Gold Medal contender in Pyeongchang.

Britain's deployment of a "game-changing skinsuit" in the skeleton has drawn formal protests from Winter Olympic rival nations, according to Riath Al-Samarrai of the London DAILY MAIL. The aerodynamic suits are said to have "played a significant part in the exceptional results in training," with either Lizzy Yarnold or Laura Deas going fastest in three of the four women's practice runs and Dominic Parsons twice clocking the quickest in the four men's sessions. It is Parsons' times in particular that have "caught the eye," because he has elevated himself from world No. 12 to a Gold Medal contender this week. Multiple nations have "queried the legality of the suits" with skeleton organizers, and Team GB's lawyer has been involved in discussions with the rules commission "at least twice." The suit, which is a "continuation of the technology used by British Cycling" in each of the past three Olympics, features drag-resistant ridges that "sharply improve its aerodynamics" (DAILY MAIL, 2/13).

The IOC said Tuesday that the Tokyo 2020 Olympics "will benefit from a fresh batch" of IOC reforms, despite having "already slashed" its initial budget by roughly $2.5B, according to Karolos Grohmann of REUTERS. The Games budget "spiraled dangerously out of control" a few years after Japan was awarded the event in '13, forcing major revisions as "potential future hosts, already concerned about the massive costs involved, were discouraged." A set of 118 reforms, named "the New Norm" and approved by the IOC session in Pyeongchang last week, are "designed to drive down costs for future Summer Games hosts" by around $1B. They would also provide some savings for Tokyo, the IOC’s Coordination Commission for Tokyo Head John Coates said, "even though all the reforms would only be in place at the 2024 Paris Games" (REUTERS, 2/13).

Russian Nikita Tregubov: "They scold us without evidence."

Russian and American skeleton racers are "refusing to speak to each other" at the Pyeongchang Games in a "spat that centers on allegations of widespread Russian doping." Two athletes from Russia and an American skeleton racer said on Tuesday that there was "no contact between them, mostly because of the underlying tensions surrounding Russian athletes' presence at the Games" (REUTERS, 2/13).

Japanese speed skater Kei Saito is the "first athlete to be excluded from the 2018 Winter Olympics for a doping violation." Saito failed an out-of-competition doping test prior to the Games, the Court of Arbitration for Sport said. The 21-year-old "left the athletes' Olympic Village voluntarily but insists he is innocent" (BBC, 2/13).

Dozens of Olympic staff who are locked up at a remote youth training facility due to norovirus infection "blamed the organizers for the spread of the sickness in Gangwon Province," accusing them of "irresponsible action." Five support staff at the facility said that they had "heard from no one when they should get back to work or be released from quarantine." They described "lax quarantine procedures, with little to stop people coming and going from the facility" (KOREA HERALD, 2/13).

Some Russian athletes who were banned from participating in the Pyeongchang Games "will have an opportunity to go for glory after all, if on a much smaller -- and more local -- scale." Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree to hold "alternative" competitions in Russia for athletes who were not allowed to "give it a go in South Korea." The competitions will include speed skating, short-track speed skating, biathalon, skiing and bobsleigh and "will apparently take place right after" the Olympics (SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, 2/12).

Athletes competing in the Winter Olympics have been handed 110,000 condoms -- a "record number" for the Games. It works out to roughly 38 condoms each and "gives competitors enough opportunity to heat up what could be the coldest" Winter Games in 20 years. Manufacturer Convenience donated most of the condoms but does not "expect the athletes to use them all" (BBC, 2/13).