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Volume 24 No. 117
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USOC Moves Ahead With PyeongChang Preparations After Assurances About Safety

The USOC is "moving ahead with preparations" for the '18 PyeongChang Games in February after "receiving assurances about safety on the Korean peninsula as rhetoric escalates" between the U.S. and North Korea, according to Rachel Axon of USA TODAY. USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said that the organization 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 last month." Blackmun: "We’re preparing as if we’re going to go there. The USOC will go. We understand individual athletes may have questions and concerns, but our job as the National Olympic Committee for the United States (is to give them) an opportunity to go and are well supported by us while we’re there." Asked if the USOC had heard concerns from athletes, Blackmun said "not a single one." The IOC said, "We are in close contact with the heads of government concerned and the United Nations over the past months, and in none of the discussions has anybody expressed any doubt about the Olympic Games 2018" (USA TODAY, 9/26). In DC, Adam Kilgore notes athletes yesterday at the Team USA Media Summit "mostly brushed off fears." The athletes, many of whom "lived through similar fears" prior to the '14 Sochi Games, "placed their trust in USOC and government officials to provide protection and evaluate potential danger." U.S. biathlete Lowell Bailey said, "The proximity is close, but from what I understand, the Olympics is one of the safest places that you can be in in terms of heightened security. I really do trust that the Olympic Committee and the State Department are all very diligent and would never put their athletes in harm’s way. I wouldn’t say it’s something I never think about, but I’m confident we’re in good hands" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/26).

WEIGHING OPTIONS: In DC, Rick Maese notes in terms of political protests being done by professional athletes, some Olympians have been trying to "decide whether and how to use the giant platform afforded to them." U.S. skier Gus Kenworthy said, "I would have no problem doing something. I think there would be teammates that would stand with me. But I also do know there are a lot of people -- even if they believe that -- are afraid of standing up because you don’t want to be pushed out by sponsors or have anything distract you from competing." Maese notes it is a "balancing act for many, weighing risk, message and delivery." Patriotism is always a "key component of any Olympics -- both competitively and from a marketing standpoint -- and athletes are certainly aware that they are representing their country and will be judged on their words and actions." U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin said, "We have to be careful not to offend anyone when we’re there" (WASHINGTON POST, 9/26).

RETURN TRIP?
The USOC did not rule out a bid for the '26 Winter Games yesterday, but execs said it would depend on L.A.'s agreement for the '28 Games and the status of other potential bids in Europe and Canada. IOC President Thomas Bach has said he would like the Winter Games to return to traditional host cities, which USOC Chair Larry Probst said is “code for Europe or North America.” Innsbruck (Austria), Sion (Switzerland) and Calgary also are all weighing bids. Also, a U.S.-based Winter Games in '26 would potentially compete with the sales and promotion efforts for L.A. '28. Blackmun said, "We wouldn’t go forward with a 2026 bid unless it was something that Casey (Wasserman) and Gene (Sykes) and the team from L.A. were comfortable wasn’t going to impact their ability to market and promote the 2028 Games." The USOC BOD will discuss the matter at an Oct. 13 meeting (Ben Fischer, Staff Writer). In Salt Lake City, Aaron Falk writes while the bribery scandal that unfolded during Salt Lake’s bid for the '02 Games may have "left a sour taste in the mouths of some, U.S. Olympians have high praise for the state’s facilities." U.S. bobsledder Aja Evans said, "Park City is one of my favorite tracks in the world. ... It’s definitely still Olympic quality." Shiffrin: "There’s been talk about Salt Lake again and how that would work. I think there’s a lot of things that have to happen logistically to make it work" (SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, 9/26).