Let’s go. Let’s resist the temptation to fall prey to fear. Let’s send an American Olympic team to South Korea despite the uncomfortable truth that our athletes will be competing each day and sleeping each night a few dozen miles away from the itchy bomb finger of North Korea dictator Kim Jong Un.
I understand the temptation.
Sixteen months ago, I was preparing to depart for Rio de Janeiro, where throngs of mosquitoes and the Zika virus were said to be waiting for athletes and Olympic visitors from across the world.
Turns out, seeing a mosquito in Rio was an event. The tiny, evil biters had flown elsewhere for the Rio winter.
Four years ago, I was preparing to depart for Sochi, Russia, where Chechen rebels/terrorists had promised to deliver bloodshed to the Winter Olympics. This promise had been made clear when those rebels blew up buses, massacring three dozen innocents a few months prior to the Games.
The rebels, and bloodshed, never arrived in Sochi, which offered a quiet, sunny experience beside the Black Sea.
In the 21st century, fear has constantly shadowed the Olympic Movement. Fear has kept thousands of potential fans away from the Games. Fear has threatened to slow an Olympics movement that is based on trust and idealism — a movement grounded on the idea the world can put aside its differences for a few weeks and play games.
On the surface, it seems the American Olympic trip to South Korea is looking shaky. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Thursday that “no official decision has been made” about American involvement in the 2018 Olympics.
“Ultimately, the president would certainly weigh in,” Sanders said.
President Trump, you might remember, has repeatedly questioned Kim’s grasp of reality.
Sanders spoke a day after U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley called American involvement in the Olympics “an open question.” Later, Sanders and a spokesman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations offered encouraging statements, saying the United States is looking forward to participating in the Olympics.
This storm will pass. Sanders and Haley are busy women who did not appear fully prepared for those Olympic questions. Taking their initial answers too seriously would be mistake.
Mark Jones, a U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman and Colorado Springs resident, tweeted Thursday the USOC “has not had any discussions ... about the possibility of not taking teams” to South Korea. In other words, the trip is on.
Still, the temptation is lurking out there. Kim will be doing his weird and scary thing not far from American athletes and visitors. America and North Korea have long been at odds, but seldom at this level. My mind, your mind, anybody’s mind that’s working can quickly fill with severely troubling scenarios.
Sure, there’s reason for fear, but don’t fall too far into that well of discomfort.
Yes, there are dozens of reasons to worry about the state of our world and, especially, about a bizarre man named Kim.
But the history of the Olympic Movement in the 21st century is a reason to celebrate. Our world has defied the odds when gathering together for weeks of joining hands to play games. We’ve done it before. We’ll do it again.