Austria, Germany and France have threatened to stay away from the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea amid security fears over the nuclear-armed North.
Winter Olympics powerhouse Austria also revealed it could stay away from the Pyeongchang Games next February if security concerns deepened.
France’s Sports Minister Laura Flessel said yesterday: ‘If this gets worse and we do not have our security assured, then our French team will stay here.’
Winter Olympic powerhouse Austria also said it was prepared to envisage staying away from the Pyeongchang Games next February if security concerns deepened following North Korea’s latest missile test, pictured
The absence of Austria and other leading winter sports powers would be a hammer blow to the Pyeongchang Games.
Austria alone took home 17 medals from the previous Winter Olympics Sochi Games in 2014 and has been the dominant force in alpine skiing and ski jumping.
A more muted response came from Germany, another winter sports heavyweight that tops the all-time Olympic medal table in biathlon, luge and bobsleigh.
The Olympics, which run from February 9 to 25, will take place in Pyeongchang, just 50 miles from the heavily-fortified frontier with North Korea.
On Friday, the International Olympic Committee tried to calm security fears amid escalating tensions over the North’s recent nuclear test and missile launches.
‘Athletes safety and security are of course a primary concern for the IOC,’ the statement said.
‘We are in close contact with the heads of government concerned and the United Nations over the past months and there, in none of the discussions, has anybody expressed any doubt about the Olympic Winter Games 2018.’
‘We continue to monitor the situation on the Korean Peninsula and the region very closely.
Karl Stoss, head of Austria’s national Olympic committee, said they would not attend PyeongChang 2018 if the situation worsened
‘We are working with the Organising Committee on the preparations of these Games which continue to be on track.’
IOC president Thomas Bach sought personally to downplay security fears 10 days ago, and a day earlier a confident IOC spokesman insisted: ‘There is no plan B’.
However the situation has since deteriorated, sparking concern among some countries while others say they are preparing for the event as normal.
Sweden’s sports minister Annika Standhall said it was ‘very worrying that some countries are imagining not to taking part’.
Neighbour Norway said normal preparations were underway.
Italy said they had been reassured by IOC chief Bach’s statement on security and were looking forward to a ‘safe and secure’ Olympics.
The Dutch Olympic Committee spokesman Geert Slot also said it planned to attend the games.
Neighbour Norway said normal preparations were underway despite the test, on September 16, pictured