Bubka appeals for peace in Ukraine as head of Lviv 2022 admits violence is affecting bid

Wednesday, 19 February 2014
By Duncan Mackay at the Main Press Centre in Sochi

Sergey Bubka has called for an end to the demonstrations in Kiev ©AFP/Getty ImagesFebruary 19 - Sergey Bubka today called for an end to the unrest in Ukraine, which has seen 25 people die in clashes between the authorities and demonstrators.

Bubka, the world pole vault record holder and President of the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine, spoke out on Twitter after the worst violence in months of unrest.erupted in the capital Kiev last night. 

"I want to bring Olympic Truce to my country," Bubka tweeted.

"Dialogue is power, violence is weakness.

"Our athletes are competing hard in Sochi, but peacefully and with honor (sic).

"Violence has no place in the World."

Bubka, a member of the International Olympic Committee's ruling Executive Board, posted his tweets both in English and Ukrainian. 

An injured Ukrainian riot police is carried by his collegaues during the clashes between anti-Government protestors and riot police at Independence Square in Kiev ©AFP/Getty ImagesAn injured Ukrainian riot police is carried by his collegaues during the clashes between anti-Government protestors and riot police at Independence Square in Kiev ©AFP/Getty Images

Bubka later wrote in my detail about the situation on his website.

'I'm shocked by what is happening in my native country - especially because the violence is taking place during the Olympic Games - the world's most peaceful and democratic event," he wrote.

"I appeal to all parties involved in the events and was pleased to see negotiations begin. I am once again urging all parties to stop the violence!

"There is no 'their' Ukraine, or 'your' Ukraine.

"It is OUR Ukraine.

"For the sake of the future of our kids let's do everything possible to get back to negotiations and make a compromise."

"I am now in Sochi and I know that our Olympic athletes who fight for the glory of Ukraine fully support me.

"I'm ready to do everything I can to help the peaceful process because I love my country and our people and believe in our future, together."

Lviv has also been the scene of protests, although they have been less violent than those in Kiev ©AFP/Getty ImagesLviv has also been the scene of protests, although they have been less violent than in Kiev ©AFP/Getty Images

Also overnight, demonstrators occupied several buildings Lviv, including those of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry Forces unit.

Lviv is one of five cities bidding to host the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, but it is increasingly looking like they will have to withdraw because of the disorder in Ukraine.

"At the moment we should focus on what is happening," said Mark Adams, communications director of the IOC.

"The Games would be seven years away, and it is not really right to be speculating on an Olympic bid when this is going on."

But Sergej Gontcharov, chief executive of Lviv 2022, admitted that the events were damaging their campaign but insisted they planned to carry on and he still believed they could be successful.

"Without doubt, it affects our bid as well.," he told insidethegames.

"It is hard to focus on our bid operations under such circumstances.

"Events at home right now are of course our most important concern. 

"Obviously, the conflict needs to be resolved before we can seriously be considered as hosts of the Winter Games. 

"Still, I remain confident that we will come out of this conflict stronger as a nation.

"I do hope for a quick and peaceful resolution while I remain very concerned about the current events.  

"We have worked very hard on our bid and, of course, we still dream of hosting the Games in Lviv.

"The bid, our dream of hosting the Winter Games, has the potential to unite our people.

"This is the power of sports and the beauty of the Olympic ideals.

"But, before we can continue our path successfully, we need to peacefully resolve the situation in our home country."

Anti-government protesters walk amid debris and flames near the perimeter of Independence Square ©AFP/Getty ImagesAnti-Government protesters walk amid debris and flames near the perimeter of Independence Square following a night of violence during which 25 people died ©AFP/Getty Images

The protests began in late November, when Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych rejected a landmark association and trade deal with the European Union in favour of closer ties with Russia.

Tensions had begun to subside as recently as Monday (February 17), as protesters ended their occupation of Government buildings in return for an amnesty against prosecution.

But violence erupted outside Parliament yesterday morning as Government supporters blocked opposition attempts to scale back the President's constitutional powers. 

Fighting spread to surrounding streets and police launched a first attack on Independence Square yesterday evening.

In a statement, the Ukrainian Health Ministry said today the number of dead on both sides had risen to 25, including nine policeman and a journalist.

Hundreds of people have been treated in hospital for injuries and there are fears the number of deaths could rise still further.

Ukraine have sent a team of 45 athletes to Sochi 2014 and have so far won one medal, a bronze thanks to Vita Semerenko in the women's sprint biathlon. 

IOC President Thomas Bach was among those to express his sympathy.

"I would like to offer my condolences to those who have lost loved ones in these tragic events," he said.

"Our thoughts and sympathy are with the Ukrainian team at what must be a very difficult time.

"The way they have continued to represent their nation with great dignity is a credit to them and their country

"Their presence here is a symbol that sport can build bridges and help to bring people from different backgrounds together in peace.  "

Contact the writer of this story at duncan.mackay@insidethegames.biz


Related stories
February 2014: Lviv 2022 refuse to budge on question of protests affecting their bid
February 2014: Bubka right-hand man appointed Lviv 2022 chief executive
January 2014: Logo for Lviv 2022 unveiled as protests show no sign of easing
January 2014: Governor of 2022 Olympic bid city Lviv forced to sign letter of resignation as violent protests spread
January 2014: Exclusive - Political protests won't affect Lviv 2022 bid, claims Bubka

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