North Korean athletes a no-show to Cuba weightlifting event

Seoul, June 9 (EFE).- North Korea appears not to have sent athletes to a key 2024 Olympic Games qualifying weightlifting competition in Cuba despite indications Pyongyang would allow a delegation of athletes to leave the isolated country for first time since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

North Korea had registered a team of 14 weightlifters for the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) Grand Prix I being held in Havana from June 8 to 18, raising expectations that the regime would relax its strict border closures.

However, the IWF website did not report the arrival or presence of the North Korean delegation in Cuba on the opening day of the event, key to qualify for Paris 2024.

After the outbreak of the pandemic, the North Korean regime activated a very strict border closure, which included the construction of new fences and the deployment of more border guards, the order to shoot anyone who came near the divide and even the reduction of trade with its main trading partner, China.

This meant that North Korea withdrew its athletes from international competitions, including the qualifying phases for both the men’s and women’s football Asian Cups and the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

That same year, the International Olympic Committee suspended North Korea’s participation in any Olympic events until the end of 2022 due to its decision to drop out of the Tokyo games.

In recent weeks, speculation had grown about a possible partial opening of borders due to the registration of the North Korean team in the IWF event and the growth of cross-border trade with China, whose ambassador to North Korea, Wang Yajun, was able to enter the country in April.

However, to date Wang is the first and only person known to have gained entry to the country in the past three years. Pyongyang has even prevented its own diplomats and overseas workers from returning. EFE


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