The 2018 Winter Olympics are coming to an end. The closing ceremony on Sunday, Feb. 25 in PyeongChang, South Korea marks the finale of the games. The Olympians on Team USA will represent the United States by walking in the closing ceremony while other U.S. representatives will watch the closing ceremony from the stands. President Donald Trump's daughter, Ivanka Trump, is one of the representatives, and it was recently announced that White House Press Secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, is joining her in South Korea. This decision puzzled some people. So, why is Sarah Huckabee Sanders at the 2018 Olympics closing ceremony?
It was announced on Wednesday, Feb. 21 that Sanders would join a small group of U.S. representatives — including Ivanka and Idaho Republican Senator Jim Risch — attending the 2018 Winter Olympics closing ceremony on Sunday in PyeongChang, according to The Hill. A White House official expanded on the reason why Sanders was given this role of U.S. Olympic representative. Per The Daily Mail, in addition to Sanders being a "senior member of this administration" and "a trusted advisor to the president," the White House official explained:
Sarah's going as a female to help cheer on all of the female athletes and highlight the women's sports and success our female athletes have had at this year's Olympic games.
It's wonderful news to hear that the White House wants to celebrate the U.S. women competing in the Winter Olympics, and there is no doubt that women on Team USA have been crushing the Olympic competition.
Chloe Kim made Olympic history as the youngest woman to win a gold medal in the Olympic halfpipe finals, figure skater Mirai Nagasu became the first U.S. woman to land a triple axel in the Olympics, and the U.S. women's Olympic hockey team is fresh of a thrilling gold medal win after defeating the Canadian women's national team in a shootout.
While Americans are proud of these talented Olympic athletes, people were a little confused as to how Sanders is linked to all of those accomplishments.
"I confess that I'm struggling to understand how Sarah Huckabee Sanders' presence at the Olympics 'highlights women in sports and the success female athletes have had.'"
"Is Sarah Sanders in the Olympics? Otherwise, it highlights nothing."
Sanders does appear to have been keeping up with the games as seen from her tweet about the women's U.S. hockey team win on Feb. 22.
"Incredible win! So proud of our women’s hockey team. Can’t wait to get to the Olympics and cheer on the USA!"
Olympics fan or not, people simply weren't sure what to make of the unclear Sanders-Olympics connection.
Given that the host city of the games is PyeongChang, South Korea, some people wondered if Sanders' presence at the 2018 Winter Olympics closing ceremony was due to an agenda regarding South Korea's neighbor to the north. Per The Hill's reporting, it was clarified that there is no meeting planned with North Korean officials. White House officials also relayed that Sanders, Ivanka, and Sen. Risch are in PyeongChang to "affirm the U.S. alliance with South Korea."
Sanders must have gotten right to work once she landed in South Korea on Thursday, Feb. 22, because she posted a photo to Twitter on Friday, Feb. 23 of the U.S. Olympic delegation (Sanders, Ivanka, and Sen. Risch) standing side-by-side with South Korea's President Moon Jae-in, First Lady Kim Jung-sook, and other senior members of the Moon administration in front of the Blue House (President Moon's official residence). She wrote that they were there "to celebrate the Winter Games and the strong alliance between our two countries."
The news of Sanders attending the closing ceremony in PyeongChang on Sunday, Feb. 25 came shortly after it was reported that North Korean delegates backed out of a pre-planned meeting with Vice President Mike Pence (who was the U.S. representative at the opening ceremony on Feb. 9), according to NBC News. The vice president's office replied to the reports on Tuesday, Feb. 20 explaining that the meeting fell through due to North Korea's displeasure with "Pence strengthening relations with South Korea and Japan" and the continued condemnation of North Korea's nuclear program and human rights violations.
If anyone was still thinking that Sanders going to South Korea for the Winter Olympics closing ceremony is a ploy to meet with North Korea, then the news of new U.S. imposed sanctions on North Korea on Friday, Feb. 23 likely put an end to that. According to The Guardian, the United States imposed new sanctions on North Korea that aim to cut off smuggling routes the regime is currently using to "evade a UN embargo and fund its nuclear weapons program." President Trump called it the "largest-ever set of new sanctions on the North Korean regime."
Given these latest happenings, it's pretty safe to assume that a meeting between Sanders and the North Korean delegation in PyeongChang is highly unlikely. Per the White House's explanation, then, you can see Sanders cheering on Team USA to "highlight the women's sports" and the Olympic success of the female athletes when Sanders represents the United States in the stands at PyeongChang Olympic Stadium on Sunday, Feb. 25.