March 5 - International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Honorary Board members Princess Margriet of the Netherlands and Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden have each pulled out of attending the Paralympic Games in Sochi, insidethegames has learned.
It can be presumed that each pulled out on the advice of their respective Governments for political reasons, in light of Russian troops surging into Crimea in southern Ukraine in recent days.
IPC spokesman Craig Spence told insidethegames today that neither will attend and added that, with the exception of soprano opera singer Maria Guleghina who is visiting, none of the other Honorary Board members had ever planned to attend due to prior commitments.
Norwegian Princess Maertha-Louise and Health Minister Bent Høie have also pulled out.
Høie, 42, had announced last month that he planned to attend as Norway's official Government representative along with husband Dag Terje Solvang, in what was interpreted as a protest against Russia's anti-gay rights laws.
But with currents events described by Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende as "the most serious crisis between the West and Russia since the end of the Cold War", no Norwegian representative will be in Sochi, although there are no plans for athletes to pull out.
A decision is also due to be made on whether the Ukrainian team will participate and, although they are already in Sochi preparing, their continued presence is considered far from certain.
The decision will be made before the Opening Ceremony on Friday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin meanwhile, the man at the centre of most of the controversy, has said today that he will attend the Opening Ceremony of the Games.
Putin said he would also try to attend some sporting events, including the sledge hockey and skiing, and described how the Paralympians are "amazing [to watch]" and like "some sort of performance art".
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