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Sexual harassment cases mar Asian Games countdown

AP

A second sexual harassment case at the Asian Games was being investigated by South Korea police on Wednesday, two days before the opening ceremony.

Police asked prosecutors to indict a 19-year-old Palestinian soccer player for allegedly harassing a female staff member at the athletes’ village, Inspector Ahn Jeong-hee said.

Ahn said the man admitted to touching the 25-year-old South Korean woman on Tuesday after proposing that they pose for a photograph.

That came a day after police started investigating an equipment manager from Iran’s soccer team who allegedly sexually harassed a female volunteer at an Asian Games stadium. The Olympic Council of Asia said it canceled the man’s accreditation, banned him from Asian Games sites, and asked Iran’s Olympic body to send him home.

The soccer tournament started on Sunday, and Palestine has won two straight matches in the group stage, 2-0 against Oman, and 2-1 over Tajikistan.

Local fans have been cheering for North Korea’s soccer players, despite ongoing tensions on the divided peninsula dating from the 1950-53 Korean War that ended in a ceasefire rather than a peace treaty.

South Korea bans open displays of the North Korean flag, but has made an exception at Asian Games venues.

The Asian Games torch arrived in Incheon on Wednesday, and will be stored overnight in the port city west of South Korea’s capital, Seoul. It is in the final stages of its 6,000-km journey around South Korea, set to culminate in Friday’s opening ceremony featuring “Gangnam Style” singer PSY and Chinese pianist Lang Lang.

Athletes from the Far East to the Middle East are competing in 42 sports at the Asian Games, a key testing ground for many of them ahead of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. China has sent the largest contingent of nearly 900 athletes and is again expected to top the medal standings. Tiny Brunei has the smallest delegation, with just 11 athletes.

Political rivalry is adding another dimension to the competition between the two Koreas, as well as between Japan and China, who are locked in a feud over territorial claims and interpretations of their shared history. Syria, Pakistan and the Palestinian team are taking part despite political upheaval at home.