USOC aims to go to Olympics unless 'physically impossible'

FILE - In this Feb. 23, 2014 file photo taken with slow shutter speed, athletes pass the Olympic rings during the men's 50K cross-country race at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. World Anti-Doping Agency investigations into doping haven't encouraged Russian athletes to speak out about abuses, but instead, there is a public hunt for whistleblowers, as Tuesday Nov. 14, 2017, Russia seems to move closer to a ban from the upcoming Winter Olympics.(AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky, FILE)

The leader of the U.S. Olympic Committee says the plan is to take a team to the Pyeongchang Games "unless it's legally or physically impossible."

CEO Scott Blackmun spoke Friday after a board meeting, and a day after members of the Trump administration surprised the USOC by casting doubt over whether the U.S. would field a team at the Olympics in February.

Blackmun said comments from U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders took the USOC leadership by surprise, but chalked it up to a miscommunication.

Shortly after Haley called U.S. participation an open question and Sanders followed up by saying "no official decision has been made," Sanders clarified in a tweet, saying the U.S. looks forward to participating in the games.

"We were obviously a little bit surprised but not at all surprised at the end of the day," Blackmun said. "I think there was just some miscommunication there rather than anything intended to be substantive or send a message. It got our attention, but all's well that ends well."

Tensions have been high in South Korea after a series of missile tests in North Korea and inflammatory rhetoric between its leader, Kim Jong Un, and President Donald Trump.

But Blackmun said the USOC hadn't received a single comment from an athlete or sponsor suggesting they don't want to go to the Olympics, which begin Feb. 9.

Two of America's best-known skiers, Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso, said Friday they weren't concerned.

"We have the largest overseas U.S. military base in Seoul," Vonn said. " If something is going to happen, none of us can control it anyway."

Mancuso said she felt safe during a trip to South Korea last year.

"I think politics are politics and I would hope that the world isn't as evil as a place to attack something like the Olympics," she said.

Technically, the decision about whether to participate in the Olympics rests with the USOC and the individual athletes. The USOC has consistently said the tension in the Koreas won't stop it from fielding a full U.S. team.

Asked who does get the final say in the decision, Blackmun replied: "I'll leave that to the constitutional scholars, but we're going to bring a team to Pyeongchang unless it's legally or physically impossible to do that. We don't want to get into a discussion of what the technicalities might be."

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