It’s nice that the United States Olympic Committee has received assurances from the U.S. government that it will, in the USOC’s words, “work with us to ensure that athletes and officials from all countries will have expedited access to the United States in order to participate in international athletic competitions.”
Note that the USOC statement says nothing about guaranteed access and really contains nothing new. The State Department always has worked with the USOC, and it always has had the right to deny access to undesirables of any sort, like the Chilean shooter refused a visa for the 1987 Indianapolis Pan American Games because he was accused of human rights violations, including murder, in his homeland. Some say that justified denial hurt Anchorage's bid for the 1994 Winter Olympics.
But in the big picture, even assuring entry of athletes for international competitions is of little consequence in the face of the Trump administration’s order banning immigration and travel to the United States for people from seven predominantly Muslim countries. It also would be overly optimistic to think the government is going to expedite access for athletes from those countries – or even grant it - while doing “extreme vetting” at the same time.
According to a person with knowledge of the situation, those assurances came too late to prevent an Iranian-born taekwondo athlete who is a citizen of Iceland from being denied entry to compete at a major event in Las Vegas, a situation first reported by ESPN. The timing may have been unfortunate, but even that logical explanation will not allay fears of more to come.
That is why the rest of the USOC’s Monday statement on the issue was so disappointingly anodyne, even if that was expected. It will do anything, as I suggested in a column posted yesterday, to avoid a Trump tantrum against the Los Angeles bid for the 2024 Olympics, because lack of national government support would sound a death knell for L.A. 2024.Read More