The U.S. Olympic Committee on Saturday pledged to take part in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang after a senior U.S. diplomat cast doubt on her country’s participation over safety concerns.
CEO Scott Blackmun told reporters after a board meeting in New York, “We are going to take a team to Pyeongchang unless it’s physically impossible or legally impossible to do that.” He added, “We are 100 percent committed to our athletes on that.”
Blackmun said no Olympic sponsor or athlete has raised safety concerns about traveling to South Korea despite mounting tensions between the U.S. and North Korea. “We are going to be bringing a team and showing up like 100 other nations,” he said.
Larry Probst, a member of the USOC’s Board of Directors, said safety concerns were raised ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi but the venue proved safe, and added that he expects the same for Pyeongchang.
Meanwhile, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach met with North Korea’s Olympic Committee chief Kim Il-guk at IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland on Friday.
The IOC said it was a routine meeting after the appointment of the new North Korean chief. But international sports officials said Bach, who is seeking to visit North Korea, may have discussed the possibility of the North’s participation in the upcoming winter Olympics with the IOC picking up the tab.
U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley on Sunday reversed herself over the question whether the U.S. will take part in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
Asked by Fox News to confirm a decision by the national Olympic body to take part regardless of any threat from North Korea, Haley said, “Yes, we are.”
Haley caused a stir on Dec. 6, when she told the same channel that U.S. participation is an “open question.”
On Sunday she defended her blunder, saying, “If you look back, we have always talked about security in the Olympics. We have always talked about keeping our athletes safe.”
“This is no different, and we are looking at the circumstances just to make sure we’re doing everything we can. We’re at the locations, we’re starting to secure the process, but we always look out for the best interests of United States citizens,” she added.
The U.S. National Olympic Committee last Saturday shrugged off safety concerns and confirmed the national team will take part in the games.