Some members of Ukraine’s Olympic team have withdrawn from the Sochi Games as widespread anti-government protests that have so far left dozens dead and hundreds injured continue in their home nation.
International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams told reporters that Ukraine Olympic Committee president Sergey Bubka has said he respects the athletes decisions but recommends they stay in Sochi.
Adams said: “He (Bubka) respects absolutely every athlete’s decision to do what they think is best in the circumstances, but I know from the NOC (National Olympic Committee) themselves they think that the best way to show some solidarity and show in a small way what sport can do to help reconciliation, the best thing is for the team to remain here.”
Responding to reports that Ukrainian athletes in Sochi were banned from wearing black armbands in a display of solidarity Adams added: “They weren’t forbidden to wear armbands. The Ukrainian NOC met with IOC officials informally yesterday; they discussed what should be done and they reached the conclusion that there are other ways of marking this moment. They had a minute’s silence in the village yesterday.”
On Thursday it was confirmed Alpine skier Bogdana Matsotska (as well as her father/coach Oleg) had withdrawn from the Olympics in response to the violence back home, while media reports suggested half the Ukrainian team have followed suit.
Ukraine’s NOC, however, has yet to confirm the number of athletes that have pulled out in protest at the ongoing violence in their country.