USOC To “Work With” Government On Athlete Access, Paris To Support Refugees Amid Trump’s Travel Ban

Athletes and officials from all countries, including the seven that are impacted by President Donald Trump’s travel and refugee bans that were executed on Saturday, should get expedited access to the United States if they are to participate in international athletic competitions.

U.S. President Donald Trump signs executive order on travel and immigration (@POTUS Twitter Photo)

A statement by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) Chair Larry Probst and CEO Scott Blackmun Monday said that they had been in touch with U.S. officials.

“Recognizing the extraordinary power of international sport to bring people together in a peaceful celebration of friendship, excellence and respect, the U.S. government has today advised us that it will work with us to ensure that athletes and officials from all countries will have expedited access to the United States…”

Global furor erupted over the weekend as the President’s controversial ban, a key part of his election platform, was put into effect immediately and stranded passengers – or forced them to cancel plans.  The executive order also spun confusion over several international sport competitions that are scheduled in the United States over the next several months.  The announcement also cast a shadow on Los Angeles’ bid to host it’s third Olympic Games in 2024.

Several prominent journalists, and an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member said over the weekend that the ban is a significant blow to the LA 2024 campaign and puts the viability of the bid into question.

Part of the IOC host city agreement iterates that accredited sport officials and athletes from all countries are to be permitted access to the Games with their Olympic credentials.  Trump’s travel ban affects Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for a 90-day period, It also blocks refugees from Syria indefinitely – and other nations for at least 120 days.

But according to the USOC statement, this may not be a concern for sport competitions.

“We have received a number of inquiries about the executive order regarding immigration that was issued by President Trump on Friday.”

“Like the United States, the Olympic Movement was founded based upon principles of diversity and inclusion, of opportunity and overcoming adversity. As the steward of the Olympic Movement in the United States, we embrace those values.

“We also acknowledge the difficult task of providing for the safety and security of a nation. It is our sincere hope that the executive order as implemented will appropriately recognize the values on which our nation, as well as the Olympic Movement, were founded.”

It concluded “We appreciate your support and patience.”

Meanwhile Paris’ 2024 bid looked to leverage the opportunity created by Trump by announcing the city’s plans to “work with the [sport] federations to empower refugees and displaced persons by helping them stay fit and active through participation in Taekwondo.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo supporting her city’s 2024 bid at Rio 2016 (GamesBids Photo)

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said “Paris has made aid to refugees a priority. In two years, we have welcomed 30,000 people who have escaped war in their countries. We ensure that they are welcomed and help them integrate well in France.”

“We are convinced that sport is useful in helping them. This partnership agreement between Paris, the Taekwondo Humanitarian Foundation and the French Taekwondo Federation reflects this city’s commitment to use sport as a means of changing the lives of those less fortunate.”

“By working on projects like this, we can leverage the power of the Olympic and Paralympic Games to create real positive change across all aspects of society.”

According to a press release, “the initiative will help to use the sport to immerse refugees into the local community – offering them a positive means to socialize, learn about the local area and cultural values and stay healthy through physical exercise.”

It “reaffirms Paris’ belief in an open and tolerant society and a Games vision to welcome the world to the French capital city in 2024,” the statement said, and is fully in line with Paris 2024’s vision of sharing as a way to address key contemporary challenges through sport and the Games.

Budapest is also competing to host the 2024 Games and all three cities are due to submit their final sets of documents to the IOC on Friday before welcoming an evaluation commission for site inspections in April and May.

The host city will be selected by the IOC September 13 in Lima, Peru.

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