GENEVA – International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) president Morinari Watanabe is scheduled to visit Pyongyang in mid-July at the invitation of North Korea’s gymnastics association, sources said Monday.
They said Watanabe, former secretary general of the Japan Gymnastics Association, will likely discuss with his North Korean interlocutors about supplying the country with equipment and interaction among coaches in the lead-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach held talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang in March, and voiced support for the country’s participation in the next Summer Games.
The IOC is supportive of Watanabe’s trip to Pyongyang, according to sources.
Watanabe became the first Asian president at the International Gymnastics Federation in January 2017, and has been visiting its member countries and regions since then.
North Korean gymnasts, including Olympic gold medalists Ri Se Gwang and Hong Un Jong, have competed in international tournaments, but the country did not send any athletes to last year’s world championships.
Ri won the men’s vault at the 2014 and 2015 worlds, before claiming gold at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Hong won gold medals in the women’s vault at the 2008 Beijing Games and the 2014 worlds.
This year’s world championships will be held in Doha from Oct. 25 to Nov. 3.