After Wavering, White House Says U.S. to Attend Winter Olympics

Main Olympic stadium for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea.

Source: Kyodo News via Getty Images

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders confirmed U.S. plans to go to the 2018 Winter Olympics shortly after raising questions about whether American athletes would participate in the games in South Korea, where North Korea’s nuclear ambitions have raised security concerns about the event.

“UPDATE: The U.S. looks forward to participating in the Winter Olympics in South Korea,” Sanders said Thursday on Twitter. “The protection of Americans is our top priority and we are engaged with the South Koreans and other partner nations to secure the venues.”

The tweet came less than an hour after Sanders said at the White House daily press briefing that the U.S. government -- and President Donald Trump -- had yet to decide whether to participate, appearing to raise doubts about the safety of visitors to South Korea, a key ally.

“No official decision has been made on that,” Sanders told reporters. “We’ll keep you guys posted as those decisions are made.”

Sanders said the decision would be made through an inter-agency process, with Trump weighing in on whether the athletes should go to South Korea.

“The goal is to do so but that will be a decision made closer to the time,” she said.

Sanders comments come a day after U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said it was an “open question” whether the U.S. athletes would attend.

“In the talks that we have -- whether it’s Jerusalem or North Korea -- it’s always about, how do we protect the US citizens in the area?” Haley said Wednesday on Fox News. “And so those are conversations that are happening.”

The 2018 Winter Olympics are set to take place in February in PyeongChang, South Korea.

If the U.S. were to stay away from the Winter Olympics, it would be a major blow to Comcast Corp., which paid $4.4 billion in 2011 for the rights to broadcast the games on NBC through 2020.

Mark Jones, a spokesman for the U.S. Olympic Committee said the organization expects to participate.

“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,” Jones said. “We plan on supporting two full delegations in PyeongChang.”

— With assistance by Gerry Smith, and Eben Novy-Williams

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