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North Korea is banned from participating in the Winter Olympics in Beijing next year as punishment for skipping this summer’s Tokyo Games.
International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach announced Wednesday that North Korea’s national Olympic committee is suspended until the end of 2022. The Beijing Olympics are Feb. 4-20.
“They were in violation of the Olympic Charter, and did not fulfill their obligation as stated in the Olympic Charter to participate in the games of the Olympiad by sending athletes,” Bach said.
North Korea cited concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic when it announced in April that it would skip the Tokyo Olympics. Bach and the IOC have taken great pride in being able to pull off the Olympics and Paralympics by employing a series of strict protocols that included daily testing for athletes, no spectators and prohibitions on Games personnel using public transportation and sightseeing.
North Korea’s punishment could also serve as a warning to any country considering skipping Beijing over concerns about human rights abuses, specifically China’s treatment of the Uyghur population.
North Korea sent 22 athletes to the most recent Winter Games in Pyeongchang, and Bach hailed their presence as a milestone in peace efforts on the Korean peninsula. North and South Korean athletes marched together in the opening ceremony, and the countries combined to form a women’s ice hockey team.
Bach also made a trip to North Korea in March 2018. He said at the time that discussions about how to improve development of athletes so they could qualify for Tokyo and Beijing were on the agenda.
Should any North Korean athletes qualify for Beijing, Bach indicated the IOC could allow them to participate as neutral athletes.
“Athletes should not suffer from wrong decisions of their agencies or their officials,” Bach said. “So there we have kept this door open.”
In addition to not competing in Beijing, the IOC said North Korea will have to forfeit an unspecified amount of financial support. The money had already been held up because of international sanctions.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 2022 Winter Olympics: North Korea banned from Beijing Games