Winter Olympics 2018: Joint Korean ice hockey team should get Nobel Peace Prize, says US IOC member Angela Ruggiero

North and South Korea’s joint women’s ice hockey team should receive the Nobel Peace Prize, America’s International Olympic Committee (IOC) member Angela Ruggiero told Reuters on Sunday.

“I would love the team to get the Nobel Peace Prize,” Ruggiero, an Olympic gold medallist and a member of the IOC’s powerful Executive Board said a day after the unified Korean team competed at the Pyeongchang Olympics.

Korea head coach Sarah Murray talks to the joint Korean ice hockey team during their match against Switzerland on 10 February. Reuters

Korea head coach Sarah Murray talks to the joint Korean ice hockey team during their match against Switzerland on 10 February. Reuters

Angela Ruggiero, a four-times ice hockey world champion and Olympic gold medalist, said she would ask others to nominate the team, which included 12 players from North Korea which is still technically at war with the South.

It was the first time an inter-Korean team had competed at an Olympic Games.

“Seriously, the team. Something that is recognizing the sacrifice they made to adjusting their competitions,” she said.

South Korea suggested the formation of a joint team as part of its efforts to use the Games to re-engage with the North and pave the way for talks over the North’s weapons program.

North Korea is subject to heavy UN and US sanctions designed to pressure the reclusive, one-party state to abandon its development of nuclear and ballistic missiles.

“As someone who competed in four Olympics and knows it isn’t about you, your team, or your country, I saw the power of what it did last night,” Ruggiero said.

The team took to the ice for the first time on Saturday, losing to Switzerland but winning over the crowd as North Korean cheerleaders and South Korean fans roared the players on.

The countries are still technically at war since their 1950-53 war ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty.

However, South Korea has been more willing to re-engage with the North than its old U.S. war ally, which wants Seoul to keep piling diplomatic and economic pressure on its neighbor.

Last month, the North agreed with South Korea to send 22 athletes and a 230-strong cheering squad to the winter Games.

Praise has also poured in from IOC president Thomas Bach, who as urged the South and the North Korean players of the joint women's ice hockey team that they should be proud despite the big loss to Switzerland in the opening game.

The joint Korean team made its historic Olympic debut on Saturday, but suffered an 8-0 loss to the Swiss at Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, the sub-host city for all ice sports at the Pyeongchang Winter Games, reports Yonhap news agency.

Bach was at the 6,000-seat arena, sitting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korea's ceremonial leader, Kim Yong-nam, who was next to North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un's sister, Kim Yo-jong.

They not only watched the hockey game, but also the performances of North Korean cheerleaders who presented choreographed dances and chanted slogans like "We're one" and "Cheer up" throughout the game.

"It was a good symbol of hopefully what the Olympic Games and the Olympic spirit can do," IOC spokesman Mark Adams said of Saturday's hockey game.

After the game ended with an 8-0 score, Moon, Bach and North Korean officials went down to the bench and had a talk with the Korean hockey players.

"(Bach) told them that the important thing is that they fought well, which they did," Adams said. "He told them you've given everything and you can be proud."

Bach, a former Olympic fencing champion for Germany, also told the Korean players that they'll realize the importance of the game, according to Adams.

"He told them you'll come to understand the importance and significance in this," Adams said. "He also said, as an athlete, he understands how they were feeling last night. It was a great moment for the Olympic Games and the Olympic spirit."

With IANS inputs

Updated Date: Feb 11, 2018 16:24 PM

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