North Korea is expecting hundreds of foreign athletes, casting doubt on its war threat.
North Korea, which threatened to bomb the U.S. and warned foreigners to leave South Korea because of an impending thermonuclear war, said on Wednesday that it was planning a marathon to celebrate its founder’s birthday.
Others expected at the April 14 race include Kenya, Ethiopia, as well as 600 North Koreans. The race is recognized by the International Association of Athletics Federations.
“I think enthusiasm for the upcoming tournament is running high among local marathoners and their coaches as never witnessed before,’’ the KCNA news agency cited Ham Chang-hyok of the Sports Ministry as saying.
This is the 26th time the Mangyongdae Prize International Marathon, named after a hill revered for its association with the country’s founding hero, Kim Il Sung, is being held.
The men’s event was won by Ukrainian Oleksander Matviychuk last year and North Korean Kim Mi-gyong won the women’s event.
It is not known if North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, whose potly frame would appear to suggest he is not a keen runner, would attend the event.
Kim is noted for his love of basketball and recently hosted former Chicago Bulls star, Dennis Rodman, in the capital, Pyongyang.
The anniversary of the birth of Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of the current leader, is on April 15 and is usually marked with a big military parade.
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