U.S. still plan­ning for the Olympics

U.N. am­bas­sador says na­tion’s participation is ‘an open ques­tion’

Albuquerque Journal - - SPORTS - FROM JOUR­NAL WIRES

Mem­bers of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion sur­prised the U.S. Olympic Com­mit­tee by sug­gest­ing the na­tion’s participation at the up­com­ing Pyeongchang Games in South Korea was “an open ques­tion,” and the USOC re­sponded by say­ing it has no plans on pulling out.

The con­fu­sion be­gan when U.N. am­bas­sador Nikki Ha­ley, in re­sponse to a ques­tion in a Fox News in­ter­view, said “There’s an open ques­tion” about whether the U.S. team would travel to South Korea, where ten­sions have grown high af­ter a se­ries of mis­sile tests in North Korea and in­flam­ma­tory rhetoric be­tween its leader, Kim Jong-un, and U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

The USOC re­sponded with a state­ment Thurs­day say­ing plans to com­pete in the Olympics, which run Feb. 9-25, hadn’t changed. Shortly af­ter that, White House spokes­woman Sarah Huck­abee San­ders told re­porters “no of­fi­cial de­ci­sion has been made.”

She later clar­i­fied in a tweet , say­ing: “The U.S. looks for­ward to par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Win­ter Olympics in South Korea. The pro­tec­tion of Amer­i­cans is our top pri­or­ity and we are en­gaged with the South Kore­ans and other part­ner na­tions to se­cure the venues.”

The USOC doesn’t re­ceive fed­eral fund­ing, and tech­ni­cally, the of­fi­cial de­ci­sion on par­tic­i­pat­ing be­longs to the com­mit­tee and the ath­letes them­selves,

all of whom would be guided by di­rec­tives from the State Depart­ment, which has not is­sued any travel re­stric­tions to South Korea.

The USOC is in fre­quent con­tact with the State Depart­ment, the or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tee in South Korea and law en­force­ment about se­cu­rity is­sues in Korea and other places that mem­bers of the U.S. team travel.

“Each host city presents a unique chal­lenge from a se­cu­rity per­spec­tive, and that is no dif­fer­ent in this re­gard,” spokesman Mark Jones said. “We will con­tinue to work with (au­thor­i­ties) to en­sure that our ath­letes, and our en­tire del­e­ga­tion, are safe.”

In Septem­ber, the USOC’s head of se­cu­rity, Ni­cole Deal, sent a let­ter to mem­bers of the U.S. del­e­ga­tion say­ing, “De­spite cur­rent po­lit­i­cal ten­sions with North Korea, there is no spe­cific in­for­ma­tion to sug­gest there are im­mi­nent threats to U.S. cit­i­zens or fa­cil­i­ties in South Korea.”

That same week, USOC CEO Scott Black­mun said, “From our per­spec­tive, with the in­for­ma­tion we cur­rently have, it’s full-steam ahead.”

It’s the same po­si­tion the USOC held as of Thurs­day, and ath­letes who have been faced with the ques­tion haven’t wa­vered on their in­ten­tion to com­pete.

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