As the White House and North Korean officials traded barbs about whether war has been declared between their countries, U.S. Olympic Committee leaders said Monday they remain confident that the American team can compete safely at the upcoming 2016 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Tensions on the Korean peninsula seemed to rise this week after President Trump tweeted that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “won’t be around much longer” if angry rhetoric between the nations continues.
The North Koreans interpreted that statement as a declaration of war and threatened to shoot down American bombers. The White House called their reaction “absurd.”
The International Olympic Committee has consistently vowed to monitor the situation and has given no indication of postponing or moving the Games, which are scheduled to begin in early February.
The USOC sounded equally patient at a media event in Park City, Utah.
“We’re working locally with the State Department and with law enforcement,” USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun said Monday, adding: “Each Games presents a unique set of circumstances. You have to look at where you’re going and the kind of risk and threats you’re going to see.”
Recent Olympics have dealt with a Zika virus outbreak in Rio de Janeiro and threats of terrorist attacks by Chechen rebels in Sochi, Russia. Athletes in attendance at the media event said they weren’t particularly concerned this time around.
“I’m honestly just focusing on the start and finish line and not really giving much time to things that are beyond my control,” Paralympic veteran Oksana Masters said. “’I’m very well aware of it because I follow it, but I’m not worried at all.”
Short of war breaking out, Blackmun said, Pyeongchang will be safe. He added: “Should the unthinkable happen and there is a conflict between nations, that’s not an issue for the U.S. Olympic Committee to get involved in.”