WASHINGTON — Apart from the 1980 boycott, American participation in recent Olympic Games has never really been in doubt. But over the last 24 hours, the Trump administration left it unclear whether the threat from North Korea might lead the U.S. to skip the upcoming competition in South Korea.
It began with Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, telling Fox News late Wednesday that “there’s an open question” about whether American athletes would go to the February 9-25 Winter Games in the city of Pyeongchang.
“I think those are conversations that we’re going to have to have,” she added. “But what have we always said? We don’t ever fear anything. We live our lives.”
The Trump administration will “make sure we are taking every precaution possible,” she said, but ultimately the safety of American competitors “depends on what’s going on at the time in the country.”
Haley’s comments led the communications director for the U.S. Olympic Committee, Mark Jones, to tweet that America would take part in the games.
“We have not had any discussions, either internally or with our government partners, about the possibility of not taking teams to the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games,” Jones said. “We plan on supporting two full delegations in Pyeongchang.”
That, in turn, led reporters to ask White House press secretary Sarah Sanders for the official U.S. position on competing in South Korea.
“No official decision has been made on that,” she said. “I know that the goal is to do so.”
After an interagency review, she said, “The president would certainly weigh in.”
In the end, Sanders tweeted the final word.
“UPDATE: The U.S. looks forward to participating in the Winter Olympics in South Korea,” she said. “The protection of Americans is our top priority and we are engaged with the South Koreans and other partner nations to secure the venues.”
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