Olympics: Ukraine skier, coach quit Games in anti-regime protest
A Ukrainian alpine skier and her coach have pulled out of the Sochi Games in protest at the authorities' deadly use of force against the protests in Kiev, they said Thursday.
Bogdana Matsotska and her coach Oleg Matsotskiy, who is also her father, said they were “outraged” by the refusal of President Viktor Yanukovych to favour dialogue over force.
They are the first members of the Ukrainian team confirmed to have pulled out of Sochi 2014 over the violence that has already left dozens dead.
“In a sign of protest… against the bandit-like actions against protesters, we are taking no further part in the Sochi Olympics in 2014,” Oleg Matsotskiy wrote on his Facebook page in a statement in the name of himself and his daughter.
They said that instead of moving to resolve the conflict peacefully, Yanukovych had “drowned the very hopes of Ukraine in blood.”
“Glory to Ukraine, Glory to its heroes!” they said in the Ukrainian-language statement.
Matsotska, 24, had already taken part in the giant slalom and super giant slalom events. Her pullout means she will not take part in the slalom.
She is from the town of Kosiv in the Ivano-Frankivsk region of western Ukraine, a stronghold of the anti-Yanukovych protest movement.
International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams confirmed that the pair had pulled out of the Games.
He said that the head of Ukraine’s Olympic Committee, the former pole vault star Sergey Bubka, understood the decision of any Ukrainian athlete who wanted to leave.
“He (Bubka) respects every athlete’s decision,” Adams emphasised.
– Minute of silence, no black bands –
But Adams added that Bubka thought that the “best way is for the team to stay here” to show solidarity with those suffering at home.
“His view is that it is better for the team to show unity and reconciliation.”
The Ukrainian Olympic Committee said that its athletes and staff in Sochi had Thursday held a minute of silence led by Bubka to remember the dead.
Meanwhile, Adams vehemently denied that the IOC had banned Ukrainian athletes from wearing black bands in their events at the Games to mourn the victims.
The Ukrainian Olympic Committee had clearly stated Wednesday that it had asked the IOC if its athletes could wear black bands but said the request was turned down as this would not be in line with the Olympic charter.
But Adams gave a different interpretation, saying the IOC and the Ukrainian delegation had met informally on Wednesday “and reached a conclusion” that the athletes would not wear the black bands and other forms of remembrance would be used.
The Ukrainian Committee said Thursday that black ribbons had however been pinned onto Ukrainian flags in the Olympic Village.
The issue of black bands had already been a bone of controversy at the Games. The IOC reprimanded Norway after his female cross country skiers wore black armbands to remember the dead brother of a teammate.
Adams left open the possibility that the IOC could discuss the issue has part of its agenda 2020 but said there was no “specific demand” to do so.