In first, Olympics chiefs invite Vatican 'God Squad' to IOC session

Feb 2, 2018; PyeongChang, KOR; The Olympic rings with the Alpensia Ski Jumping Center in the background at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Some go for gold. Others go for God.

For the first time, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has invited the Vatican to send a delegation to its general meeting next week in South Korea ahead of the Pyeongchang Winter Games.

The Vatican newspaper l’Osservatore Romano reported on Friday the delegation will attend in an observer role and be headed by Monsignor Melchor Sanchez de Toca, an undersecretary with portfolio for sports at the Vatican Council for Culture, effectively its culture ministry.

Sanchez de Toca, a former pentathlete, will give IOC president Thomas Bach and all Korean athletes running vests used by the Vatican’s track team, informally known as the “Pope’s Marathoners”.

The delegation will also attend the opening ceremony of the games in Pyeongchang. A Vatican delegation attended the opening ceremony of the Rio games in 2016.

The IOC could not be reached for comment.

Reporting By Philip Pullella, editing by Pritha Sarkar