Koreas will march together at Asian Games

The Unification Flag of Korea, which was used by the joint women's hockey team during the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

The Unification Flag of Korea, which was used by the joint women's hockey team during the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

SEOUL, South Korea — Sports is more than just a game where adults play on a glorified schoolyard. Sports is also a forum where people can come together despite their apparent differences, as the two Koreas are expected to demonstrate this coming summer.

            Athletes from North and South Korea will join together under a single flag and march as one team at the opening and closing ceremonies of this year’s Asian Games, it was reported. The 2018 Asian Games kicks off on Aug. 18 in Indonesia.

            The Associated Press, on June 18, reported the two Koreas would field a combined team for certain events, though details of which competition(s) would feature a singular Korea team was not yet specified.

            Both Koreas already joined forces earlier this year, when North and South established a joint women’s hockey team at the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. (The united Korean team lost all three games it competed in, outscored 20-1 along the way.)

            Sports has ultimately been a mixed bag when it comes to world affairs, acting both as agent for diplomacy or a target for violence.

            A 2010 article in The Atlantic listed the occasions where sports served a force for good. Also mentioned were the occasions where the spirit of international competition was marred by the worst in humanity.

            Former NBA player Jordan Farmar, for example, hosted basketball camps for Arab and Jewish children in Israel. PeacePlayers International also uses basketball to bring communities together; the nonprofit maintains a series of programs and network in the Middle East, Central Asia, Northern Ireland and the United States.

            The International Olympic Committee, meanwhile, established The Olympic Truce, a venture seeking “to promote friendship, respect and world peace.”

            Nelson Mandela, just the same, relied on the 1995 Rugby World Cup to bridge social and political division in South Africa during his post-apartheid presidency.

            Sports also served as a venue for healing and togetherness, such as when the New York Yankees won the World Series in 2001 after 9/11. The Houston Astros (winning World Series after Hurricane Harvey) and Vegas Golden Knights (Stanley Cup Final appearance in inaugural season after mass shooting) were also examples of communities healing through sports.

            Of course there were times when sports took a back seat to acts of terror or war. An explosion rocked the international village during the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta, Georgia. The taking of hostages dominated headlines during the 1972 Summer Games in Munich, Germany. Major League Baseball cancelled its 1945 All Star Game due to World War II.

            Whether the Koreas will use the Asian Games to extend their detente remains to be seen, yet many are certainly crediting both nations for trying to ease tensions.

            The first Asian Games was held in New Delhi, India, in 1951. Manila, Tokyo, Jakarta, Bangkok, Tehran and Seoul have also hosted the Asian Games. This year’s international athletic competition will feature 40 sports, including archery, badminton, basketball, baseball, golf, hockey, jet ski, martial arts, rugby, tennis and weightlifting.