By Brian Oliver

North Korea hopes to host the Weightlifting World Championships ©Getty ImagesNorth Korea, the world's most reclusive country, wants to host an International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) World Championships and the sport's world governing body is keen for it to happen - so, too, are rival teams across the globe.

Over the past few years weightlifting has become the North Koreans' number one sport.

They won three Olympic gold medals at London 2012, and earlier this month their team of six men and six women won 12 golds at the World Championships in Almaty.

Those victories meant that for the first time in their history, North Korea finished top of the overall medals table at a major sporting event.

The North Koreans are in talks with the IWF about hosting one of the sport's biggest events in the next three to five years.

The IWF has made concerted efforts to "open up" the country through sport.

Last year they persuaded the regime in Pyongyang to invite South Korean athletes to compete north of the border, under their own flag, for the first time.

"They have the facilities and the sporting knowledge," said Attila Adamfi, director general of the Budapest-based IWF.

"The fact that they topped the medals table in Almaty will give fresh impetus to their intentions.

"They have not made a formal bid but they have expressed an interest and talks are ongoing.

"It would be good for our sport, and for all sport, if it happened."

Adamfi, who visited Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, last year with one of the IWF's leading anti-doping experts, told insidethegames, "I don't think they can host a senior World Championships because they wouldn't be able to meet the requirements for HD television and marketing.

"A Junior or Youth World Championship is more realistic."

North Korea topped the overall medals table at the 2014 IWF World Championships thanks to the likes of Kim Un-guk ©Getty ImagesNorth Korea topped the overall medals table at the 2014 IWF World Championships thanks to the likes of Kim Un-guk ©Getty Images

Adamfi attended an Asian Cup competition last year that was watched by the country's ruler, Kim Jong-un.

"He likes many sports, but especially weightlifting," said a member of the North Korea team in Kazakhstan.

China, the world's most powerful nation in weightlifting, welcomed the move by the North Koreans.

Li Hao, a manager with the team in Almaty, said, "It would be great if DPRK [North Korea] hosted a Championships.

"They are our strongest rivals now, and our athletes would love to go there.

"A competition in DPRK would motivate our athletes to do better."

Ashley Metcalfe, the chief executive of British Weightlifting, was also enthusiastic.

"It should be applauded," he said.

"It would be another exciting first for weightlifting.

"It's a good example of how sport can break down barriers that politicians sometimes can't."

Michael Massik, chief executive of USA Weightlifting, told insidethegames, "If the North Korean Federation were to host a World Championships, our Federation would seriously consider sending a team.

"Our considerations would be tempered by the opinion of our Olympic Committee, the recommendation of our State Department, and the availability of appropriate visas."

North Korea has staged a World Championship once before, in 1979.

The sport was table tennis but the event was not truly global, because South Korea and Israel were not invited.

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