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‘Darkness before dawn’: nukes, Russia ban leave Olympics reeling

Seoul, South Korea: Holding the Winter Olympics in a little-known corner of South Korea was never an easy proposition, but a ban on Russia and the latent threat of nuclear war have left the hosts hoping that things can only get better.

With less than two months to go, a flurry of problems beyond their control have created a perfect storm for Pyeongchang Olympics organisers as they gear up for the Games at their mountainside HQ.

Not only has Russia, the top medal-winner at the 2014 Sochi Games, been barred over a major drugs scandal, but North Korea has staged a series of nuclear and missile tests while trading threats of war with the United States.

The Games have also been shorn of stars from the National Hockey League (NHL), which is snubbing the event after the International Olympic Committee refused to pay costs such as travel and insurance.

"Dark clouds are hanging over the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics," the South's own JoongAng Daily said in an editorial this week.

Public enthusiasm appears limited in the host country, where Unification Minister Cho Myoung-Gyon warned that another North Korean military provocation could deliver a "fatal blow" to the Games.

But as the problems mount, organisers remain defiant. Lee Hee-Beom, president of the organising committee, told AFP: "Minister Cho has gone beyond his brief. I find it regrettable. Sport must be separated from politics."

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