U.S. Floats Idea Of Skipping 2018 Olympics Over Safety Concerns

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley is floating the idea that the U.S. might not take part in the Olympics due to safety concerns. This would be a foolish decision.

2018 Winter Olympics PyeongChang

Just a day after the International Olympic Committee announced that Russia would be barred from participating in the 2018 Winter Olympics due to cheating, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nation put the idea that the Olympics themselves may be too unsafe for American athletes due to ongoing tensions on the Korean Peninsula:

HONG KONG — The American envoy to the United Nations, Nikki R. Haley, said on Wednesday that it was an “open question” whether American athletes would be able to attend the Olympics in South Korea in February given the tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

The Winter Games are to be held Feb. 9-25 in Pyeongchang, a city about 50 miles from the demilitarized zone that separates North and South Korea.

Asked on Fox News if athletes from the United States would be able to compete, Ms. Haley said: “There’s an open question. I have not heard anything about that, but I do know in the talks that we have — whether it’s Jerusalem or North Korea — it’s about, how do we protect the U.S. citizens in the area?”

Tensions have been heating up on the Korean Peninsula after a two-month lull, with North Korea launching a missile last week that experts said showed the capability of hitting much of the continental United States.

Then, on Monday, the United States began military drills with South Korea that were to include simulated strikes on the North’s nuclear and missile sites, leading Pyongyang to accuse Washington of pushing the peninsula “to the brink of nuclear war.”

Addressing the strained relations and their impact on the Olympics, Ms. Haley said the Trump administration would try to “find out the best way” to protect American athletes participating in the Games.

“I think those are conversations we are going to have to have, but what have we always said? We don’t ever fear anything, we live our lives,” Ms. Haley said. “What we will do is make sure that we’re taking every precaution possible to make sure that they’re safe and to know everything that’s going on around them.”

However, Mark Jones, a spokesman for the United States Olympic Committee, said there had been no discussion of American athletes’ staying

“We have not had any discussions, either internally or with our government partners, about the possibility of not taking teams to the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games,” he said in a statement. “We plan on supporting two full delegations in Pyeongchang.”

South Korea has invited the North to participate in the Games. But the military drills with the United States and the recent defection of a North Korean soldier to the South have reignited tensions and undercut hopes for a thaw in time for the Olympics.

The question of whether or not the United States should send a team to the Olympics is a complicated one. As noted, the location where the games will take place is just about fifty miles away from the Demilitarized Zone across which the North Korean military has tens of thousands of missiles and other military equipment that could be unleashed against civilians. While it’s difficult to believe that even Kim Jong Un would be foolish enough to take action that would threaten the games, the possibility that he could take action that would increase tensions along the peninsula in the coming weeks between now and the start of the games in less than two months seems almost certain. As a result, one has to wonder just how safe the games themselves will be, and how vulnerable athletes might be to some kind of attack or other nefarious action.

Notwithstanding any of these potential threats, though, it strikes me that withholding American athletes from the Olympics would be an exceedingly bad idea that would play right into the propaganda hands of Kim Jong Un and the North Koreans. For obvious reasons, the South Koreans are looking to these Olympics as a way to show-off their country to the world, including to people in the United States. The prospect of the United States not participating in these games would be deeply embarrassing to the Republic of Korea, and needlessly so given the fact that there is virtually no chance that the North Koreans would actually be stupid enough to try anything aggressive during the games. Additionally, the South Korean and American militaries will no doubt be on high alert before, during and after the Games. Finally, not participating in the games would be utterly unfair to the athletes who have been training, many for the better part of their lives, for the chance to participate in the games. Rather than giving Kim Jong Un a propaganda victory, American and other western athletes need to go to South Korea, proudly wave their flags, and show that we won’t be intimidated by a tinpot dictator.


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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    At the rate Denture-Don is going we will be well into WW3 by the time the games begin.
    And yes…I realize the games begin this coming February…

  2. Pete S says:

    I am sure that at some point Trump had agreed not to show Putin up by having the US win more medals than Russia at the winter games, since he seems to be about the worst negotiator in history. So when Russia got kicked out this probably became inevitable.

  3. gVOR08 says:

    What message would we send by saying we’ve escalated with NK to the point it’s not safe to be in South Korea? The South Koreans live there.

  4. Sleeping Dog says:

    This makes no sense. Is Nikki Haley feeling that she’s not getting enough attention in what is the s___ show of the Trump administration. Seems to me that Haley’s personal political future would be best served by keeping her head down and doing her job.

    And in other news, the State Dept has issued a world wide caution for travel by Americans. Guess we should all stay home.

  5. Stormy Dragon says:

    Real reason: some Olympians are suggesting that if they win they’ll refuse a trip to the white house.

    Lindsey Vonn: I won’t be representing US President at Winter Olympics

    As usual, Trump is the world’s most insecure man, so he’s doing his usual “you can’t quit, I’m firing you” shtick.

  6. inhumans99 says:

    Jeez…the GOP is showing themselves to be a bunch of fraidy cats, first they issue a travel ban and now this, sigh. I wonder if President Trump is trying to make his crush Putin feel better by saying no worries, if you are kicked out of the Olympics we have your back and will stay home, utterly embarrassing behavior if I am even remotely close to this administrations reasons why they might pass on the Olympics.

    It would be even more of a PR disaster for America if we did this, the Russian team is filled to the rafters with cheats, we have some bad eggs but not the crazy amount of bad eggs that you find on the Russian teams so the American public including President Trumps base needs to loudly tell him this is a bad idea, as showing up would make our President look…well, Presidential if he proudly sits in the Olympic Stadium’s stands during the opening ceremony as the American delegation jubilantly walks into the stadium field.

  7. inhumans99 says:

    I think the time to edit my post has passed so putting up a new post, that was fast as Politico now has a story with quotes from Sarah Huckabee Sanders that the U.S. looks forward to competing. I guess they had Nikki Haley float the idea of skipping the Olympics under the guise of safety concerns and the idea went over like a lead balloon with President Trump’s base.

  8. Jc says:

    Real reason: No Russians no Americans either per Putin instructions to Trump. Trump tells Haley, not sure if it’s a good idea cuz safety and stuff, she puts out a feeler statement…man, is this what it feels like to be Alex Jones? CON spiracy! I️ tell yah

  9. MarkedMan says:

    @Jc: I don’t think this is Alex Jones territory’s all. Americans afraid to go to South Korea? Give me a f*king break. There is no real American that would say such a p*ssy sh*t thing. This is a “Putin owns Trump’s traitorous ass” special, straight from the Kremlin.

  10. Franklin says:

    The prospect of the United States not participating in these games would be deeply embarrassing to the Republic of Korea

    But you have to admit, the Trump Administration doesn’t give a flinging sh*t about our allies or what they think and feel. (Not that Donald could even comprehend the processes of thinking and feeling.)

  11. MarkedMan says:

    We all know friends in bad relationships. To everyone else, the significant other’s bad faith and behavior is beyond obvious, but our friend keeps dismissing it as misinterpretation, or one offs. In Trump’s case, his supporters unbelievable blindness to the fact that he is Putin’s servant and is betraying the United States has become truly pathetic.

    First, no real American leader would ever float the idea that we are so afraid of NK we would boycott the Olympics. We Americans rightly pride ourselves on grit and determination and an unwillingness to back down, and Trump’s mewling like a frightened kitten in fear of Baby Kim is literally un-American. And it is also truly un-Trump. Admit to being scared? Publicly run away from a bully? Encourage NK to engage in further bad acts because he can see how rattled we are? Are we honestly to believe that this is Trump’s reaction on his own?

    So two days after Russia is kicked out of the games we have the Trump administration looking for excuses to pull America out? Coincidence? No way. Trump is owned by Putin and Vlad sent an underling to explain how he expected Donald to behave. And Donald, aware that his life and fortune are in Putin’s hands, immediately obeyed.