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CNN Exclusive: Dennis Rodman set to go to North Korea for 'basketball diplomacy'

By Steve Forrest, CNN
updated 10:07 AM EST, Wed December 18, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rodman and a documentary crew are scheduled to arrive on December 19
  • Experts say it's safe for them to travel there, and the trip won't be political, sponsor says
  • Sponsor: Rodman will train a North Korean team, doesn't have plans to meet with Kim Jong Un
  • The players are training for "The Big Bang in Pyongyang," a game against former NBA players

(CNN) -- As Dennis Rodman readies for his "basketball diplomacy" trip to North Korea, CNN has learned exclusively from Rodman's sponsor Paddy Power that Rodman and his documentary crew will arrive in Pyongyang on December 19 and train a team of North Korean basketball players through December 23.

The names of the former NBA players and "high-profile" NBA coach will be announced before Rodman leaves next week for North Korea. Paddy Power is an online and in-store sports betting business in the UK.

Rory Scott, a spokesman for Paddy Power, said that "taking a pragmatic view, we have spoken to many experts familiar with recent developments in DPRK and it was the general consensus that it is safe for us to travel there. The purpose of this trip is not to get involved with politics but to prove once again that sport has the power to rise above all issues. And this will be a unique sporting occasion."

The spokesman added that Rodman has no definite plans to meet with "the Marshal Kim Jong Un," but because Rodman and the President are friends, they could very likely meet again.

Dennis Rodman sings "Happy Birthday" to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un before an exhibition basketball game in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Wednesday, January 8. In his latest round of "basketball diplomacy," Rodman made his fourth visit to North Korea, one of the world's most totalitarian states, to participate in a basketball game between North Korea and a team of former NBA players. Dennis Rodman sings "Happy Birthday" to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un before an exhibition basketball game in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Wednesday, January 8. In his latest round of "basketball diplomacy," Rodman made his fourth visit to North Korea, one of the world's most totalitarian states, to participate in a basketball game between North Korea and a team of former NBA players.
Dennis Rodman's trips to North Korea
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Photos: Dennis Rodman in N. Korea Photos: Dennis Rodman in N. Korea

The North Korean basketball players are being trained for a game against a team of former NBA players, called Dennis' Dream Team, in Pyongyang on January 8, Kim's birthday. The game is tentatively titled "The Big Bang in Pyongyang." The first half will be the U.S. vs. North Korea. For the second half of the game, the two teams will be blended with players from both sides.

Opinion: Is Dennis Rodman smart on North Korea?

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