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With tensions between the United States and North Korea escalating, whether or not Team USA athletes will be participating in the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, is coming into question.
Speaking on Fox News, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said it’s an “open question” if U.S. Olympic athletes will be in South Korea and competing come February.
“I think those are conversations we are going to have to have, but what have we always said? We don’t ever fear anything, we live our lives,” Haley said in the interview. “And certainly that is a perfect opportunity for all of them to go and do something they have worked so hard for.
“What we will do is make sure that we are taking every precaution possible, to make sure that they are safe.”
In a statement released Thursday, U.S. Olympic officials downplayed concerns about sending athletes to South Korea.
“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. We plan on supporting two full delegations in PyeongChang,” said USOC spokesperson Mark Jones.
Haley’s sentiment comes as North Korea says that a nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula has become a matter of when, not if. This was a response to a joint military exercise between the U.S. and South Korea involving many advanced warplanes.
The U.S. has only boycotted the Olympics Games once. That came in 1980, when the Games were held in the Soviet Union, and as a response to that country’s invasion of Afghanistan.
In September, France indicated that it would not compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics if safety could not be guaranteed and the state of North Korea’s atomic weapons program intensified.
The U.S. Olympic Committee has consistently said that it is continuing preparations to compete in Pyeongchang and has been in contact with the state department, law enforcement and met with the four-star general in charge of U.S forces in South Korea in August.
Speaking in late October, USOC vice president of sport performance Kelly Skinner said, “Every Games environment brings about unique challenges, and we have some tremendous partners in the State Department that can help us prepare. Team USA’s preparations continue in earnest. We will make sure that the athletes and the staff are safe when we’re in Korea.”
The IOC said Wednesday before Haley’s comments that the security situation remains unchanged despite continued missile tests by North Korea and sustained rhetoric between its leader, Kim Jong Un, and President Donald Trump.
Christophe Dubi, the executive director of the Olympic Games, said security concerns were not discussed during the executive board’s morning session in Lausanne, Switzerland, this week.
The IOC has consistently said it is in contact with governments and that there is no security threat.
“There is full support from the United Nations, very positive message coming out of the assembly,” Dubi said. “A number of heads of states have expressed themselves in this respect. We are really confident in this, so this message can be relayed to the athletes by the (National Olympic Committees).”
Information from the Associated Press contributed to this report. Also contributing: Rachel Axon from Lausanne, Switzerland.
PHOTOS: 2018 Winter Olympic, Paralympic hopefuls
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