SAN JOSE, Calif. - The president of U.S. Figure Skating said Wednesday he did not believe U.S. skaters would heed a politically motivated call to boycott the upcoming Winter Olympics in South Korea and indirectly chided the senator who raised the prospect this week.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) tweeted Monday that the U.S. should boycott if North Korea goes to the Olympics.
“I think they need to be careful saying things like that because these athletes have worked so hard to get there,” USFS President Samuel Auxier said. “The Olympics should be above politics. They shouldn’t be playing politics with this.
“It was a disaster in 1980 for many of the athletes who couldn’t go. And I’d hate to see that just because Trump and Kim Jong-un are trying to see which button’s bigger.”
North Korea has qualified at least two athletes for Pyeongchang, a skating pairs team, and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un recently broached the idea of sending an official delegation and possibly some athletes.
President Donald J. Trump has not made any public comment on the issue of U.S. participation in Pyeongchang. In response to Kim saying this week that he has a nuclear button on his desk at all times, Trump tweeted that the nuclear button on U.S. President's desk is "bigger and more powerful" than North Korea's.
Under pressure from the Carter White House, the U.S. boycotted the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics in protest against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Both the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate passed non-binding resolutions calling for the U.S. to stay away from Moscow, and the U.S. Olympic Committee eventually supported President Carter’s boycott call.
Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said in early December that U.S. participation in the 2018 Winter Olympics was an “open question.” A day later, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted, “The U.S. looks forward to participating in the Winter Olympics in South Korea."
Sanders said Tuesday said the United States has made "no final determination" about its feelings on the participation of North Korean athletes in Pyeongchang.
Auxier and USFS executive director David Raith, speaking just hours before the start of senior competition at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, both said they expected a U.S. team to go to Pyeongchang.
“It’s really the USOC’s call, and (USOC chief executive) Scott Blackmun has said we are going to compete unless it’s physically or legally impossible,” Auxier said. “I don’t think our athletes would boycott. They have been working all their lives for us.
“Clearly, if there was some provocation on either side, they (the athletes) would go along with it (a call not to go to South Korea.) If it’s just `because,’ if it’s a power play or something like that. . .”
USOC spokesman Mark Jones said in a Wednesday email, “We intend to bring full delegations to the Olympic and Paralympic Games.”