France will not compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang if safety cannot be guaranteed and the state of North Korea's atomic weapons program worsens, Laura Flessel, the country's sports prime minister, said in an interview Thursday on RTL radio.
The Winter Games are slated for Feb. 9-25 in Pyeongchang, South Korea — 50 miles from the North Korean border.
"If this gets worse and we do not have our security assured, then our French team will stay here," Flessel said. "We will not put our team in danger."
Flessel is the first leading politician to take a public stance regarding a country's participation in the Olympics. It comes on the heels of International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach saying earlier this week that "there is not even a hint that there is a threat for security of the Games in the contexts of tensions between North Korea and some other countries."
An International Olympic Committee spokesman dismissed safety concerns in an emailed statement to USA TODAY Sports.
"Athletes' safety and security are of course a primary concern for the IOC," the statement read. "We are in close contact with the heads of government concerned and the United Nations over the past months, and in none of the discussions has anybody expressed any doubt about the Olympic Games 2018. This position has been confirmed in meetings with a number of leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in the past days.
"What I fear is that some nations may boycott the Games, because they have concerns for their athletes," he said Sept. 8, via AFP.
Early Friday morning — in response to further sanctions imposed by the Trump administration — North Korea threatened to detonate a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean.
In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly at the beginning of the week, President Trump threatened to "totally destroy" North Korea, if necessary. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un responded by calling Trump a "mentally deranged dotard."
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