As the International Weightlifting Federation’s Executive Board meeting came to a close, an announcement was made that North Korea will no longer host the 2018 Junior World Weightlifting Championships. Instead, the contest will be held in Uzbekistan, most likely in the capital city of Tashkent.
The final decision of the IWF EB was to award the hosting rights of the 2018 IWF Junior World Championships to Uzbekistan. The Junior World Championships had originally been awarded two years ago to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
When it was first reported that Pyongyang was set to host the Junior World Championships, the decision was met with some unease in parts of the international weightlifting community. North Korea, officially titled the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), is one of the most politically isolated nations on Earth. Many governments across the globe consider it a totalitarian dictatorship, and the nation is considered by Human Rights Watch as “among the worst in the world” for human rights violations.
This year, the DPRK has been the subject of serious and wide-ranging criticism and controversy for firing a ballistic missile over Japan. Most recently, the DPRK’s foreign minister said that war with the United States was “inevitable.”
The IWF didn’t make any further comment about their motivations for moving the championships. The decision, though, could be especially impactful for American athletes.
The United States of America does not have diplomatic relations with North Korea — it has no embassy in Pyongyang and they have no embassy in the United States — so it was uncertain as to whether or not American athletes were going to be able to attend the 2018 World Weightlifting Championships. When it it was first announced as the home of the event, USA Weightlifting CEO Phil Andrews said that USAW “admires the IWF’s ambition to place sport before politics” and that they would “evaluate U.S. participation” in the championships.
The event’s move to Uzbekistan potentially opens up participation for a number of countries. Tashkent has been home to several high-profile international weightlifting competitions, notably the 2016 Asian Weightlifting Championships.
Featured image via @iwfnet on Instagram.