FIVE RINGS OVER KOREA by Richard W. Pound

FIVE RINGS OVER KOREA

The Secret Negotiations Behind the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 The story of the tortuous negotiations between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the two Koreas over the staging of the 1988 summer Olympics in Seoul takes the reader into the heart of Cold War politics in all its paranoid splendor. At the center of this delicate imbroglio stood the former Spanish ambassador to Moscow, IOC chairman Juan Antonio Samaranch, who danced his way through negotiations of mind-boggling complexity. Pretty soon, in fact, the reader gets bogged down in the interminable petty wrangling that finally brought the Seoul games to fruition, without, however, being much intrigued or diverted on the way. Park Chong Kyu, head of the Korean Olympic Committee, Ashwini Kumar, an Indian IOC negotiator, Kim Yu Sun, the North Korean member of the IOC, Samaranch, et al., hardly emerge as personalities at all, which renders their various interactions somewhat dull. No doubt the intrigues themselves would have made an interesting article--the attempt to ideologize and manipulate the Olympic ideal is a juicy enough topic. It is indeed curious to note that the IOC at one point considered granting North Korea the staging of the table tennis tournament, a sport in which it was strong, and the canoeing event, simply because a river runs between the two Koreas. But a 340-page book packed with endless footnotes and acronyms (``DPRK NOC refuses IOC request for DPRK and ROK to march together in Opening and Closing Ceremonies'') simply collapses under its own weight. It is also worth asking whether Pound, who is still a member of the IOC, is sufficiently unhindered to tell the story as it should be told. This is a shame, for there is undoubtedly an interesting backstage story here--but one that needs a light, acerbic touch to bring it to life.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0-316-71507-7
Page count: 464pp
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1994