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U.S. Olympic leaders unsure if White House can force American team to skip Winter Games

U.S. Olympic leaders unsure if White House can force American team to skip Winter Games
Team USA goalie Jonathan Quick stands in the crease during a training session for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. (Julie Jacobson / Associated Press)

U.S. Olympic leaders acknowledged Friday they were caught off-guard when government officials commented about potentially skipping the upcoming 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, because of security concerns.

Earlier this week, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders suggested that the federal government would have final say on sending an American team into the region amid lingering political tensions.

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Sanders subsequently dialed back on the possibility, tweeting: “The U.S. looks forward to participating in the Winter Olympics in South Korea.”

Speaking to reporters after a U.S. Olympic Committee board meeting in New York City on Friday, USOC Chief Executive Scott Blackmun said the statements “definitely got our attention.”

“I think there was just some miscommunication there,” he said.

In 1980, President Carter took the unusual move of ordering the Americans to boycott the Summer Olympics in Moscow. When asked about whether the government could prevent a U.S. team from competing now, Blackmun sounded less than certain.

“We’ll leave that to the constitutional lawyers,” he said. “We’re going to take a team to Pyeongchang unless it’s physically impossible or legally impossible.”

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