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The International Olympic Committee will exclude North Korea from the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics as punishment for its no-show at the Tokyo Games, IOC President Thomas Bach said Wednesday.

For its decision to skip the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics over COVID-19 safety concerns, the North Korean National Olympic Committee will also permanently forfeit payments that had been withheld by the IOC due to international sanctions against the country, Bach said.

“With its non-participation, they were violating the Olympic charter and did not fulfill their obligation,” Bach said in an online news conference following a meeting of the IOC executive board. “(The North Korean NOC) is suspended until the end of the year 2022 as a result of its unilateral decision.”

The suspension will also exclude North Korea from other Olympic programs and assistance through 2022, although Bach indicated athletes from the country who qualify for the Beijing Games may be allowed to compete on an individual basis.

While the Tokyo Games coincided with record coronavirus infection rates in Japan, the IOC chief said safety measures including the “Olympic bubble,” which limited contact between foreign delegations and the public, had proven to be effective.

“I think we can still say that these games were safe, because we have no indication whatsoever that there was any infection being transferred from the Olympic bubble to the people of Tokyo or the people of Japan,” Bach said. “I think this is supported by the scientific evidence and also by the fact you have rising figures not only in Tokyo, but all over Japan.”

Bach said the Tokyo Games provided a “symbol of hope the world was longing for” during the pandemic, while also proving the Beijing Winter Games can proceed safely as scheduled next February.

The IOC chief also hailed a recent agreement between the NHL and its players’ association that paves the way for many of ice hockey’s biggest stars to compete in Beijing.

“I think all ice hockey fans from around the world can look forward to an Olympic ice hockey tournament at full strength at Beijing 2022,” Bach said.

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