US Olympic staff prepared, confident in South Korea security

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Los Angeles (AFP)

With the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics only 100 days away, US Olympic officials said Friday they were confident American athletes will be safe and secure competing near the North Korean border.

Recent tensions between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had raised concerns about next February's event in South Korea but barely 50 miles (80km) from the demilitarized zone separating the nations.

"The safety and well-being of Team USA is always first and foremost in our mind," said Kelly Skinner, US Olympic Committee vice president of sport performance.

"We are always closely working with the (US) State Department. Every Games environment brings about unique challenges but we have some tremendous partners in the State Department who can help us prepare.

"Team USA's preparations continue in earnest and we will make sure that the athletes and staff are safe when they are in (South) Korea. That is our primary concern."

Athletes have been updated on security issues by the USOC as they have prepared for various competitions. Many were able to make their own decisions after competing in test events at Olympic venues.

"Over the last couple of years we have had several, hundreds even, of athletes actually participating in events over there and the feedback that we have received is that people have felt comfortable and ready to compete," Skinner said.

"Our goal will be to make sure they feel that same way during the Olympic and Paralympic Games."

Skinner did not give a direct answer when asked about any advance evacuation plan should one be needed during the Olympics, but indicated the State Department would be the ones to decide on making such a move.

"Team USA is always prepared to any place that we go and we work closely with the State Department on anything that needs to be done to make sure that Team USA is safe and secure," Skinner said.

"Other things that may need to happen to make sure we are safe is dictated to us by the State Department and we have a close relationship with them."