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North, South Korea eye joint march, teams for Tokyo 2020

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (Reuters) - North Korea and South Korea want a joint march at the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics and have requested to have some unified teams in different sports, the president of the International Olympic Committee said on Friday.

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South and North Korean sports and government officials met with the IOC in Lausanne, buoyed by the role the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics played in easing tensions between the two countries, amid initial planning for a joint bid for the 2032 Olympics.

The two nations had marched together at the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang for the first time since the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin. They had also fielded a unified women’s ice hockey team.

“We are taking note that both are very much interested in having some joined actions in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 with a joined march and some unified teams in different sports,” IOC President Thomas Bach said.

The IOC said the two countries had officially requested to enter joint teams in the qualifying process for four sports -- women’s basketball, women’s hockey, the judo mixed team event and some men’s and women’s rowing teams.

Among the points of discussion at the Lausanne meeting was also a potential 2032 Summer Olympics joint bid by North and South Korea, and Bach praised them for proceeding with it.

“We think this is a great symbol of the Olympic spirit. It is a great symbol again of the unifying power of the Olympic Games,” Bach said.

“Sport will continue to build bridges and demonstrate the unifying power of the Olympic Games. Therefore, we warmly welcome the historic initiative of the two Koreas to put forward a joint Korean candidature for the Olympic Games 2032,” he added.

Relations between the nations greatly improved last year, with South Korean President Moon Jae-in meeting his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong Un at three different summits.

North Korea has for years pursued nuclear and missile programs in defiance of U.N. sanctions but the neighbors moved to thaw relations in 2018.

“South Korea greatly hopes to jointly host the Olympic Games 2032 with North Korea, and will work to successfully bid for the Games together,” Do Jong-hwan, South Korean sports and culture minister said.

North Korean Olympic Committee chief and sports minister Kim Il-guk confirmed Pyongyang’s Olympic aspirations.

“The leaders of the two Koreas agreed that they intended to host the Olympic Games in 2032. I am very moved and excited by the prospect of bidding together with South Korea,” he said.

“We agree with the concepts put forward by South Korea, and ask for the support of President Bach and the IOC to jointly host the Olympic Games in Seoul and Pyongyang.”

The IOC usually awards the Olympics seven years in advance.

Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Toby Davis