SBD/December 7, 2017/Olympics

USOC Intends To Participate In Olympics Despite Haley Calling It An "Open Question"



Haley said discussions are always being held about U.S. citizens' safety in Korea
The USOC intends to fully participate in the Pyeongchang Games and Paralympics despite remarks from U.S. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley last night suggesting it is still an “open question” within the Trump administration. “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,” said USOC Managing Dir of Communications Mark Jones. “We plan on supporting two full delegations in Pyeongchang.” The USOC has consistently sought to downplay the perception of risk in South Korea over the last year, issuing a similar statement reaffirming its commitment to participating in September after Olympic officials in Austria, France and Germany suggested the nuclear tensions between North Korea and the U.S. might keep them away. Pyeongchang is located approximately 50 miles from the North Korea border. USOC security at the Olympics involves a close working relationship with the U.S. State Department’s major events division. As of September, the organization’s security division is operating as “business as usual for our security planning and preparations,” according to a letter sent then to athletes, NGBs and other Olympic officials. The USOC is a private nonprofit with limited Congressional oversight, so the administration’s direct authority over Team USA is limited. Prior to the U.S. boycott of the '80 Moscow Games, the N.Y. Times reported that the government does not actually have the legal power to force Team USA from attending, short of a total ban on American travel. However, former USOC Exec Dir Harvey Schiller in '80 said the USOC felt it could not go against the wishes of the Carter administration because it depends on the government in other ways. “There's always a threat of what might happen from the executive office on down, in terms of a whole range of issues the USOC depends on, both financial and strategic,” Schiller said (Ben Fischer, Staff Writer).

SAFETY ALWAYS A CONCERN: Haley last night during an appearance on Fox News left Team USA's participation in question and said discussions being held are "always about how do we protect U.S. citizens in the area." Haley: "Those are conversations that are happening daily." Haley was asked whether it was safe for American athletes to compete. She said, "Those are conversations that we’re going to have to have, but what have we always said? We don't ever fear anything. ... Certainly that's a perfect opportunity for all of them to go and do something they've worked so hard for. What we would do is make sure we're taking every precaution possible to make sure that they're safe and to know everything that’s going on around them. That's something where the administration is going to come together and find out the best way to make sure they’re protected" (“The Story with Martha MacCallum,” Fox News, 12/6).

THAT'S JUST PLAIN COLD: REUTERS' Hyunjoo Jin reports the Pyeongchang Games "may feel like the coldest Olympics in at least three decades because the main stadium lacks a roof." That would leave an "estimated 35,000 spectators, including world leaders, exposed to extreme cold" during the Opening Ceremony. Organizers expect "biting winds to make conditions inside the open-air stadium at the start of the Games" feel like 7 degrees Fahrenheit. The lowest "feels-like" temperature on record for an Opening Ceremony was 12 degrees during the '94 Lillehammer Games. The $58M stadium was built without a roof in order to "save time and money." An internal document states officials plan a "range of measures" at both the Opening and Closing ceremonies to "prevent people suffering from hypothermia -- from distributing hot packs and blankets to speeding up security checks" (REUTERS, 12/7).
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