SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — Two executives for U.S. Figure Skating warned against any potential boycott of the Pyeongchang Olympics by the United States.
USFS President Sam Auxier, asked Wednesday about Sen. Lindsey Graham’s comments that North Korea competing in next month’s games should prompt a U.S. team boycott, said Graham and others “need to be careful” about the American team not participating. Auxier added, “They shouldn’t be playing politics with this.”
Added U.S. Figure Skating Executive Director David Raith about political intervention in the Olympic process: “It doesn’t help anybody. We’ll be there.”
USOC spokesman Mark Jones, reiterating the governing body’s long-held position, said: “We intend to bring full delegations to the Olympic and Paralympic Games.”
On Monday, Graham said the United States now has a reason to stay away from the Olympics, which begin on Feb. 9.
“Allowing Kim Jong Un’s North Korea to participate in #WinterOlympics would give legitimacy to the most illegitimate regime on the planet,” the South Carolina Republican tweeted. “I’m confident South Korea will reject this absurd overture and fully believe that if North Korea goes to the Winter Olympics, we do not.”
The last thing American figure skaters want is to be drawn into any such debate as their national championships, which serve as the Olympic Trials, began Wednesday. The athletes tend to shy away from the topic, trying to avoid the distraction.
Auxier and Raith met it head on, however, expressing both concerns about political interference and confidence their athletes want to attend the Pyeonchang Games.
“I think they need to be careful saying things like that because these athletes have worked so hard to get there,” Auxier added. “The Olympics should be above politics. … It was a disaster in 1980 for many of the athletes that couldn’t go (to the Summer Games in Moscow because of a U.S.-led boycott.) And I’d hate to see that just because (President) Trump and Kim Jong-un are trying to see which button’s bigger.”
Both men noted they believe all U.S. athletes expect to be in Pyeongchang.
“The USOC is planning to go. We’re planning to go. We’re planning to field a team,” Raith said. “Our athletes are training and there is nothing today that says we’re not going to compete.”
Auxier admitted it is up to the U.S. Olympic Committee to make the call on going to South Korea, but that USOC CEO Scott Blackmun consistently has said the American team will go, short of it’s physically or legally impossible through some type of war action.
“That would change things dramatically,” Auxier added. “But I don’t think our athletes would boycott. They’ve been working all their lives for this. Who knows what Trump will tweet out, but if he were to say to boycott it, unless there was a very clear reason why to do it, I don’t think our athletes would boycott it. They want to compete.”
More AP Olympic coverage: https://wintergames.ap.org