SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA
19 OCTOBER 2017
North Korean officials are still scrambling to make sense of the Olympic Committee’s sudden announcement late last night of Pyongyang’s winning bid to host the 2020 games. The sporting organization’s notice was shared on Twitter and confirmed by independent news sources. Comment from the Olympic Committee’s Board of Directors was limited to brief confirmation via a publicist.
The primary cause for confusion and some concern among Kim Jong-un’s advisers is that Pyongyang had never filed an application. Although it is widely known that the North Korean Supreme Leader and Chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) is a more than passive fan of sports, NBA basketball in particular due to a childhood fascination with members of the 90s-era Chicago Bulls team, the notion of the capital city of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPR) serving as host of the international sporting event only a few years from now seems strange to many. Expert analysts briefed on the matter, however, have been reluctant to describe it as impossible to realize.
“Infrastructure is infrastructure,” according to a leading engineering consultant on past games who requested anonymity. “Money circulates, contracts are signed, things get built,” he added.
When asked if he thought if the timeline was realistic, he replied that “Rome wasn’t built in a day, but that’s because they didn’t have those things,” pointing out a window to a fleet of cranes towering above various other forms of advanced construction machinery. “Three years is plenty of time,” he went on. “Hell, 18 months would suffice.”
Other engineers at the same and several competitor firms, all with international licenses and also requesting not to be named, described their colleague’s analysis as “optimistic” but also “not beyond the realm of possibility.” Comment from yet another industry insider carried on very strangely the engineers’ string of axioms: “You make do with what you have. It is what it is. You do and you get things done.” A fellow engineer on the same conference call added, “Rome got done. Pyongyang will get done.”
Infrastructural plans are now also a major concern in Japan. Tokyo’s winning bid to host the 2020 games was announced long ago, and many engineers involved in projects there have yet to be made aware of the news. Japanese organizers, meanwhile, having accepted with reluctance and lingering disbelief the veracity of the Olympic Committee’s confirmation, have by and large declined to comment. Construction contracts for new stadiums, training facilities, athletic residences, roads, expanded transportation hubs and other large-bill items are under review.
The fiscal fallout is likely to be dramatic not only for Japan. Shockwaves have already rippled through global markets as financial institutions brace for what could be crippling displacements of funds. Overseers are paying meticulous attention to which stocks seem to be surging as others plummet. At the time of this writing, most analysts still agree that nothing particularly out of the ordinary has emerged that would indicate a direct or inverse connection with the surprising situation at hand. Such trends can point to insider trading, for instance, or otherwise manipulated markets. It seems as yet that the Olympic Committee’s coffers have not been positively affected by developments, as was anticipated by many. Allegations that the governing body is prone to corruption have proliferated in recent years.
Among the many financial analysts asked to comment for this article, and for some reason the only commenter among all those cited here who didn’t mind being named, was Zanna Domack, a market tracker whose deep awarenesses and prophetic acumen are considered unparalleled in the industry. Her keen and immediate analysis of the day’s stock volatilities proved to be the lone outlier opinion, and one that quickly changed the direction of discourse from market concerns to one of wider-reaching relevance to global politics.
“It’s not true at all that indicative surges are nowhere to be found,” she said. “They’re just not where anyone would expect them in terms of linear or reciprocal gains pertaining to infrastructural funding, materials, insurance and so forth.” She went on to describe industries that would have natural fluctuations as the news affected stock investments, not only broadly but also over the course of the day as markets continued to shift.
When asked where the surges were, Domack sighed and seemed to emit the first half of a laugh before rattling off an extensive sequence of insights pertaining to commodities futures and entertainment industries, with particular regard for how shifting fortunes in food and sports can point with great specificity to certain events or news developments.
“Looking across the board,” she said, “and considering precisely which commodities are undergoing increased investment apace one another, and which other food industry markers are doing the same, there’s really only one thing to conclude,” at which point she paused and sighed again.
“It’s pizza. Someone out there is making a ton of pizza. Tons of pizza. Tons upon kilotons of pizza. It’s extraordinary,” she said, then seemed to finish the other half of her laugh.
When asked what pizza could possibly have to do with this bigger picture involving the Olympic Committee’s bizarre executive decision to move the 2020 games from Tokyo to Pyongyang, albeit as yet without official acceptance from the North Korean regime, she said, “Look, sports are enduringly popular, and international sporting events have been trending higher than ever. And it’s safe to assume that everyone loves pizza. I, for one, could live on it for every meal of every day for the rest of my life. It’s simple and delicious, and moreover, the ways in which it can be variably inflected for cultural preferences, local palettes or dietary issues are infinite.” She then gave a number of examples, in fact far too many to cite here. One of them involved Medjool dates and a balsamic reduction. Another entailed a medley of toppings à la niçoise; another yet, pickled vegetables such as kimchee. One version featured a topping of fried chicken and mashed potatoes, with a crust made of biscuit ingredients.
Aside from many pizza recipes, Domack also shared a note of promise with regards to how the day’s news could impact the international community. “We can’t exactly say that great progress has been made on disarming North Korea or limiting Kim’s nuclear ambitions. Sanctions are being evaded, talks are failing, and certainties pertaining to sustained nuclear deterrence are more uncertain than ever. If somehow sports and pizza help to bring about rapprochement, what could possibly be undesirable about that? It’s preferable to nuclear warfare, at the very least.” Then she paused again. “Also, watch for stocks to trend up in beer tomorrow, and don’t be surprised if other major sporting events tag along for the ride. Global politics might soon quake in shockingly hopeful ways, almost invariably involving Dennis Rodman. Sporting events will abound. Pizza will abound. Could be worse, right? For instance, I have yet to build my own fallout shelter.”
Foreign policy analysts provided with Domack’s assessments found no reason to disagree. “Why not?” commented one. “Solid assessment as far as I’m concerned. Soft diplomacy can take many forms. Maybe one of those forms also has crust and is shaped like pizza. Speaking of which, I’m eating some right now while watching Yankees highlights from last night. What a series so far! Go Yanks!”
An insider source in Pyongyang, meanwhile, on assignment in the North Korean capital thanks to facilitation by the so-called New York Channel, provided an account of this morning’s revelation of the news to Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un.
“Kim’s closest advisers convened with a number of party officials before alerting him to the Olympic Committee’s surprise announcement, as the Supreme Leader was allegedly sleeping in after staying up until 5:12 in the morning playing Contra, a popular Nintendo video game from the late 80s. When they were able to get his ear, however, they learned that he had never actually gone to sleep at all, preferring to continue playing Contra without pause, jacked up on Red Bull and giddy with the unbridled excitement of having become very good at a video game. It is assumed that he had finally been informed only last week that there was an important secret code to the game, namely ‘up up down down left right left right B A start,’ and that he had since then been on quite a marathon of classic NES-enabled destruction. At some point they were able to convince Kim to pause the game and turn away from the console long enough to consider whether or not his nation should agree to host the 2020 Olympic games that had been unforeseeably thrust upon them, if not given to them as a gift from History Itself. He said only, ‘Sure, no problem, just hold those bombs for a while I guess. And get Dennis Rodman involved. Now. And when you get a chance, bring me more pizza.’ I inquired as to how much pizza the Dear Supreme Leader and WPK Chairman consumes, and his advisers assured me it was quite a lot. ‘Who doesn’t love pizza?’ asked one. Another official confirmed that everyone in fact loves pizza.”
Our source’s account was later confirmed, although official announcements of the DPR’s acceptance of the games have yet to be issued. Also confirmed were reports that FIFA, the NBA and, for some reason, the World Curling Federation have all expressed interest in holding events in Pyongyang in the coming years.
It is assumed that the sport of curling could use a big dose of publicity, since most people still don’t know it’s really a sport, or because they refuse to believe it’s a real one.
It is also assumed that ‘sportsprochement’ and ‘pizzapprochement’ will soon enter the regular vernacular of foreign policy analysis and international studies scholarship.
Drawings featured here are recent additions to Paul D’Agostino’s ongoing book project called Pizzas for Gorky. They’re in colored pencil and ink on watercolor paper, 5 by 5 inches each. You can see several other drawings from this project among D’Agostino’s Instagram posts @postuccio.