US, Iranian athletes to compete at 2020 Winter Youth Olympics amid rising tensions

Mounting tensions loom over international competition

U.S. and Iranian athletes will compete against each other this month at the 2020 Winter Youth Olympics in Lausanne, Switzerland, even as escalating military tensions stoke fears of a potential war between the two countries.

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The geopolitical rivals are among dozens of countries sending athletes to the international competition, which begins on Wednesday and runs through Jan. 22. Team USA sent 96 athletes to the Youth Olympics, and Iran sent six athletes, according to state-run media outlets.

The cross-country skiing, alpine skiing and ski mountaineering events will each feature two Iranian athletes. Team USA has several athletes competing in the three events.

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It’s unclear if the International Olympic Committee has made any alterations to its program in light of the growing dispute over U.S. airstrikes that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani at Baghdad’s international airport last week.

"The security of all participants at the Winter Youth Olympic James Lausanne 2020 is taken care of by the relevant Swiss authorities and for obvious reasons we cannot speak about any details," an IOC spokesperson told FOX Business.

The U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee did not return to multiple requests for comment on whether American athletes were being prepared for the situation.

U.S. military officials said the airstrikes, which occurred after Iran-backed militias attempted to storm the U.S. embassy in Iraq, were a defensive measure in response to intelligence that Soleimani was “actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.”

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The 2020 Winter Youth Olympics will unfold just months before the beginning of the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

At the behest of Olympic officials, the United Nations’ General Assembly passed a resolution last month calling on participating nations to honor the traditional “Olympic Truce” during this summer’s event. At the time, IOC President Thomas Bach called for a politically neutral atmosphere.

“The Olympic Games are the only event today that brings the entire world together in peaceful competition,” Bach said.

Reverberations from the U.S.-Iran dispute have already reached American sports. U.S. Soccer canceled a planned training camp for the men’s national team in Qatar this month due to heightened tensions in the Persian Gulf.

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This story has been updated.