U.S. figure skating execs warn against American boycott of Olympics

Two executives for U.S. Figure Skating warned against any potential American boycott of the Olympics in Pyeongchang.

Bemoan 'playing politics' after Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham threatens action over North Korea attendance

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, above, threatened an American boycott of the Olympics if North Korea is allowed to attend. U.S. Figure Skating exec Sam Auxier responded Wednesday, warning against "playing politics." (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Two executives for U.S. Figure Skating warned against any potential American boycott of the Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

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 USFS 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."

Opposes North Korean participation

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 [the] Winter Olympics 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.

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," Auxier added.

USOC expects to be there

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 if 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."

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now