TELANDER: It looks like a non-nuclear winter at the Olympics

SHARE TELANDER: It looks like a non-nuclear winter at the Olympics
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The Winter Olympics start Feb. 9, and it’s worth reviewing the purpose of the Games, forgetting for the moment the turmoil, drug-cheating, political posturing and, perhaps, sexual harassment that is likely to occur at some point and be reported days, months or even years later to hand-wringing and disgust.

The fact is, the modern Olympic Games were started in 1896 to be beneficial not just to the participating athletes but to all of mankind.

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As the charter states: ‘‘The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.’’

Humans are the greatest threat to other humans. The Olympics, at their best, attempt to quell our man-driven homicidal — and, by extension, suicidal — urges.

Thus, North Korea and South Korea deciding to march in the opening ceremony under one flag in Pyeongchang, South Korea, is no small thing. That flag, known as the Korean Unification Flag, is plain white with a blue silhouette of the Korean peninsula and its islands.

If the two Koreas ever could come together peacefully and reunite as a self-determined, prosperous, democratic nation with all the insanity of the Northern dictatorship and its nuclear arsenal removed, the world would benefit.

The two women’s hockey teams even have agreed to play as one, and that’s an amazing development in itself.

True, the South Korean athletes have voiced a bit of displeasure about this decision by higher-ups because playing with strangers isn’t a great game-time strategy. But the political statement and the symbolism are too much for South Korea to pass up. The whole world should applaud.

Indeed, anything that can bring harmony to the Koreas and lessen global concerns about nuclear war is nothing short of a dream come true.

‘‘Miracle on Ice II’’? Why not?

We might wonder why the Koreas are separated in the first place.

They came apart after World War II, having been under Japanese control for decades. The United States took control of the country below the 38th parallel, and the Soviet Union took the northern part. The North was Communist, with the influence soon coming largely from China, and the South was democratic.

The Korean War, started in 1950 when the North invaded the South, solved nothing, and the countries have been bitter enemies ever since.

And we, of course, have grave concerns about the semi-loony ‘‘supreme leader’’ of North Korea, Kim Jong-un.

He’s the guy who has built prison camps, starved his people, closed the country to most visitors — except nutcase U.S. ‘‘ambassador’’ Dennis Rodman, now in alcohol rehab — and has built up a terrifying nuclear arsenal against the wishes of the free world.

Almost as terrifying are the sarcastic and juvenile taunts made by President Donald Trump in response to Kim’s chest-puffing.

‘‘I too have a Nuclear Button,’’ Trump tweeted recently, ‘‘but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!’’

How did Kim respond? With this: ‘‘I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged US dotard with fire.’’

The exchange is so crazily nihilistic that most people, at least here, think little of it because of their daily distractions, the assumed hyperbole and our nationwide level of forgetfulness.

Let me bring this adolescent saber-rattling to focus.

Only two atom bombs ever have been detonated in conflict — ‘‘Little Boy’’ on Hiroshima and ‘‘Fat Man’’ on Nagasaki — both in August 1945, to bring about Japan’s surrender to end World War II.

‘‘Little Boy’’ came first, and the 9,000-pound bomb’s funny nickname belied its hideous payload. Detonated 2,000 feet above Hiroshima, it created heat equal to that of the sun and immediately demolished the city and killed 90,000 people. Then there were the dying injured and the radioactive fallout that would bring the total dead to about 200,000, 90  percent of them civilians.

I visited Hiroshima on the 30th anniversary of the bomb, and I saw where human shadows had been burned into the stone steps where the vaporized people had been sitting.

Today, we have no concept of the power and destructive force of the newest warheads. Consider that thermonuclear bombs have been developed that are to ‘‘Little Boy’’ as a tornado is to a summer breeze. In 1961, the Soviet Union test-exploded a thing called the Tsar Bomba, which was more than 3,000 times more powerful than the World War II bombs. The Tsar Bomba’s plume rose 26 miles into the atmosphere.

Nobody wins in a nuclear war. Nobody. And that means you.

If the Winter Olympics can help tamp down that risk, glory be.

Follow me on Twitter @ricktelander.

Email: rtelander@suntimes.com

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