USOC concerned about drug war ahead of Pan Am Games

ATLANTA Wed Mar 16, 2011 8:28am EDT

Scott Blackmun, chief executive of the U.S. Olympic Committee, attends the Reuters Global Media Summit in New York November 30, 2010. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Scott Blackmun, chief executive of the U.S. Olympic Committee, attends the Reuters Global Media Summit in New York November 30, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

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ATLANTA (Reuters) - The United States Olympic Committee promised on Tuesday to have a security plan in place before sending athletes to the Pan American Games this year in Guadalajara, which is engulfed in a deepening drug war.

The violence in Mexico's second biggest city has raised concerns about Guadalajara's ability to host thousands of athletes and tens of thousands of fans from across the Americas at the October 14-30 Pan American Games.

"We talked a lot about the Pan Am Games," Scott Blackmun, the USOC's chief executive, told reporters at the end of a board meeting on Tuesday.

"Everyone is quite aware of the violence, we're obviously concerned about it but at the end of the day we will have a good security plan in place to protect our athletes."

The buildup to the Pan Am Games has been marred by violence as drug cartels battle for control of the host city.

Guadalajara has been the scene of escalating fighting with gangs attacking bars, police stations, hijacking cars and blocking major roads and highways.

"On Thursday I am headed to Guadalajara for a two-day meeting and I am sure that security will be one of the significant issues that will be discussed," said USOC Chairman Larry Probst. "At that meeting we will hear from the Pan Am Games organizing committee what their plans are."

At the Pan-Am Games, held every four years, 42 countries will compete in 36 sports ranging from basketball to fencing and swimming.

The USOC also said it does not expect the U.S. Figure Skating Association to bid to host the figure skating world championships that were set for Japan next week but postponed after last week's devastating earthquake and tsunami.

But Probst said the USOC sent a letter to the Japan Olympic Committee offering support.

At Tuesday's meeting at Turner Field, home of Major League Baseball's Atlanta Braves, the USOC welcomed five new board members including former Microsoft executive Robbie Bach, former and John Hancock chief executive officer James Benson.

(Writing by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Frank Pingue; To query or comment on this story email sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)

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