On Thursday, the President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, and the Ukrainian Minister for Youth and Sport, Vadym Guttsait, visited Ukrainian athletes who are currently living and training in Switzerland.
President Bach and Minister Guttsait, both Olympic champions in fencing, were accompanied by Sergii Bubka, President of the National Olympic Committee (NOC) of Ukraine, IOC Member in Ukraine and Olympic pole vault champion.
The Ukrainian athletes currently training abroad have not returned home following the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian army, supported by Belarus, on 24 February 2022. Since the start of the war, the IOC has led the solidarity efforts of the Olympic Movement to help the Olympic Community in Ukraine. The IOC has set up a Solidarity Fund and provided – together with Olympic Solidarity – USD 1 million. The European Olympic Committees (EOC) has provided funding of USD 0.5 million. With the donations received from Olympic Movement stakeholders, this fund now totals over USD 2 million and is currently being distributed.
The efforts of the IOC and the Olympic Movement are being coordinated by a task force, which is being led by Sergii Bubka . The support aims at enabling Ukrainian athletes to continue taking part in international competitions. It takes the form not just of financial aid, but also logistical support, travel support, offering training facilities, accommodation, equipment and uniforms, amongst other things.
Over Easter, Sergii Bubka and Minister Guttsait visited a number of training centres in Ukraine and met with athletes. This week they continued their visits to Ukrainian athletes abroad.
On Thursday, IOC President Bach, Minister Guttsait and NOC President Bubka went to the UCI World Cycling Centre (WCC) in Aigle, Switzerland, where they were welcomed by the President of the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) and IOC Member in France, David Lappartient. They watched BMX and track cycling training sessions and met 30 BMX, track and mountain bike athletes. Three of them are currently training at the WCC, while 27 others have been evacuated by Swiss Cycling and are currently training and residing in the Swiss National Centre.
It is not just Ukrainian athletes who are preparing for competitions in Aigle and using the World Cycling Centre as their base – cyclists from Afghanistan are also being hosted here. Samira Asghari, IOC Member in Afghanistan, joined the IOC President and the Ukrainian delegation during their visit to 23 road discipline athletes who have joined the WCC following the humanitarian crisis in their country and have been given the chance to build a new life in Switzerland.
The support the IOC is extending to the Olympic Community in Ukraine is not unique, but similar to the support extended to other members of the global Olympic Community. It is based on solidarity, one of the fundamental values for which the Olympic Movement stands.
“It was moving to meet and hear from the Ukrainian athletes who are affected by the terrible war in their country. There are dozens of cyclists and hundreds of Ukrainian athletes in other sports who can continue participating in international competitions through the help of the IOC and many stakeholders of the Olympic Movement like the UCI. I want to thank all of them,” said IOC President Thomas Bach.
He continued: “It was particularly touching to see that Ukrainian and Afghan athletes are both benefiting from the solidarity of the Olympic Movement. This reflects the true Olympic spirit. We will continue supporting Ukrainian and Afghan athletes in the same way as we support other members of the global Olympic Community who are affected by war and aggression.”
The Ukrainian Minister for Youth and Sport, Vadym Guttsait, said: “I would like to express my gratitude for the solidarity and the efforts of the IOC and the international sport community to support Ukrainian people and Ukrainian athletes. We welcome the rapid decisions taken by the IOC with regard to Russia and Belarus, which have sent a clear and strong signal to the entire sport community that the IOC stands with Ukraine in this difficult time. I also want to thank the Olympic Movement for the solidarity fund set up to support our community, and in particular the Ukrainian NOC President, Sergii Bubka, who helps with the coordination efforts and stands by our side every day.”
Minister Guttsait informed the IOC President about the Ukrainian proposal to all stakeholders in the sporting sector that they become sponsors of the re-birth of sports clubs and sports infrastructure in Ukraine after the war is over. “This is a great initiative. The IOC is fully supportive of this project,” said the IOC President. “The IOC’s support for the Olympic Community in Ukraine will continue. We are offering to coordinate this initiative with the worldwide Olympic Community, and are very confident that the big wave of solidarity with Ukraine involving many stakeholders of the movement will not end. We will encourage them to go on and will lead by example.”
Minister Guttsait thanked the IOC President for this offer: “This is a continuation of the strong and fruitful cooperation between the IOC and Ukraine over the years,” he said. Just last September, the IOC President visited the country to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the NOC of Ukraine. On this occasion, the IOC President also met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and received the Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise.
President Bach, Minister Guttsait and NOC President Bubka also discussed the unfolding situation in Ukraine during a meeting at Olympic House in Lausanne.
The IOC had – in consultation with Ukrainian NOC President Sergii Bubka –immediately condemned the war and the breach of the Olympic Truce when the Russian invasion of Ukraine started on 24 February 2022. At that time already, the IOC urged all International Sports Federations (IFs) not to allow Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials to take part in international competitions, to ensure the integrity and fairness of the global competition. It also recommended to the IFs to relocate all planned competitions from Russia and Belarus . In addition, a number of members of the Russian government, including the President of the Russian Federation, were sanctioned for breaching the Olympic Truce. The IOC also suspended the tender process for the media rights sales for the territories of Belarus and the Russian Federation for Milano Cortina 2026 and Los Angeles 2028.
The Ukrainian Sports Minister welcomed this strong message from the IOC and the fact that the vast majority of IFs are following the IOC recommendations.
President Bach and Minister Guttsait noted that the support for the Ukrainian Olympic Community is only possible because of the close cooperation between the NOC of Ukraine, under its President Sergii Bubka, and the Ukrainian Ministry for Youth and Sport. The IOC President emphasised that the IOC will continue to undertake every effort to support the right of Ukrainian athletes to train and participate in global competitions wherever practically possible.
The IOC President, Minister Guttsait and Sergii Bubka also discussed calls for further sanctions in the sporting sector. The IOC President made it clear that the IOC supports sanctions against anybody in the Olympic Community who is in support of the war, and continues to monitor the situation as indicated in the “Give Peace a Chance” message of 11 March 2022. He also reaffirmed that, naturally, the Olympic Movement respects the measures being taken by respective governments.