Alan Hubbard

Such a shame that so far Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un have showed no inclination to attend the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang next month.

If they turned up, together with the Chinese President Xi Jinping they would have a political quorum who could sit down at a table over a steaming bowl of kim-chi, the Korean national dish made mainly from rotting cabbage aged in barrels for donkey’s years (how well I remember it from Seoul 30 years ago - the rancid taste still hovers at the back of my throat) and put that deeply troubled part of the world to rights without a red button in sight.

Then, all pals together, they could slide off into the Korean sunset a jolly sleigh ride knowing that the Olympic Truce really would be worth the paper it is written on.

What’s more, such accord would be the most meaningful happening to come out of a Winter Olympics, much of which isn’t exactly grabbing us by the snowballs this side of the Himalayas.

Unfortunately one of the three significant multi-national sporting events of 2018 - the others are the Commonwealth Games and football’s World Cup - is occurring at a faraway place with a strange sounding name.

North Korea leader Kim Jong-un has revealed that his country may send a team to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, a move which would help the peace process with their neighbours in the South ©Getty Images
North Korea leader Kim Jong-un has revealed that his country may send a team to the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, a move which would help the peace process with their neighbours in the South ©Getty Images

At least the South Korean hosts are doing their best to make some capital out of their snow-show.

Their Government has offered high-level talks with North Korea to find ways to cooperate over the Winter Olympics. Seoul’s proposal following a rare rapprochement overture from the North offers the possibility of better ties after a year that saw a nuclear standoff increase fear of war on the Korean Peninsula.

In a closely watched New Year's address, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said he was willing to send a delegation to the Olympics, though he also repeated the usual nuclear threats against the United States, to which of course The Donald was happy to respond in kind.

Such fiery fun over the Games.

At least Kim's overture was welcome news for a South Korean Government led by liberal President Moon Jae-in, who favours dialogue to ease the North's nuclear threats and wants to use the Pyeongchang Olympics as a chance to improve inter-Korean ties.

So Seoul and the Games organisers have billed the Winter Olympics, which are due to begin on February 9, as the "Peace Olympics"

Well, good luck with that one.

On a more general note, as I have opined here recently I find the Winter Olympics of cold comfort.

 As I said few weeks back I'm sure Baron de Coubertin was not envisaging slaloming down mountains or helter-skeltering through an ice tunnel when he first dreamed up the Olympic concept.

The first Winter Olympics have certainly grown since they were first held in 1924  in Chamonix in France with the original eight disciplines being Alpine skiing, biathlon, bobsleigh, cross country skiing, curling, figure skating, freestyle skiing and ice hockey. Now there are double that number of disciplines.

By all means have a global festival of winter sports and call it what you will, but for me the Olympic Games are a summer event, and always will be.

kim-chi is Korea's national dish but Alan Hubbard is not a fan ©Getty Images
kim-chi is Korea's national dish but Alan Hubbard is not a fan ©Getty Images

Which brings us the Commonwealth Games which actually will be held on the Gold Coast in Australia’s Queensland during Europe’s springtime between April 4 and 15. 

Once again this is an event which has not received great deal of publicity outside of the host nation and one wonders if they are gradually becoming an anachronism.

Fewer and fewer cities outside what you might call the "white" Commonwealth have either the inclination or the financial wherewithal to stage them, enjoyable as they invariably are.

For they are more a festival of sport with an up-market village fete atmosphere than the more intensely contested Games warfare we see in the Olympics.

But in global terms they have become something of an irrelevance and I am not sure how much longer they can be sustained.

And so to the World Cup. Well at least Putin will turn up for this as, thanks to his old mucker Sepp Blatter, it is his show.

One that is being staged, you might say, in the land of dope and tarnished glory.

A football World Cup without Italy and The Netherlands maybe an oddity, but so is the presence of a host nation which has been excluded per se from some sports at the last Summer Olympics, World Athletics Championships and the forthcoming Winter Games.

So far there has been no proven programme of endemic drugs taken in Russian football but should the so-so national team, which enjoys automatic qualification as hosts, actually win the tournament eyebrows will be raised from the Urals to Uruguay.

Of course there is always the suspicion that Russia, so piqued at being exposed as a nation of dopers, might now try to implicate other nations.

If I was the manager of a team playing Russia in the World Cup I’d check very carefully that no phials of nandralone or stanazolol were hidden away under the seats in the visitors’ dressing room.

Or worse still, kim-chi...