Ukrainian athlete withdraws from Sochi Winter Games in support of protests back home

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 February, 2014, 9:45pm
UPDATED : Friday, 21 February, 2014, 1:19am

Two members of Ukraine's Olympic team decided yesterday to pull out of the Sochi Winter Games in support of demonstrators back home after widespread anti-government protests left dozens dead and hundreds injured.

Alpine skier Bogdana Matsotska and her coach and father, Oleg Matsotskyy, said they had withdrawn from Russia's first Winter Games in protest at Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovich and his government.

"I have decided not to take part in the slalom, my favourite discipline [today], because of the horrible events that are happening in the capital of my Ukraine," Matsotska, 24, said.

"My friends are there at the Maidan [square], people I know, close friends of mine.

"To go on the start line when people are dying and when the authorities broke the main rule of the Olympic competition, which is peace - I simply cannot do it." Ukraine team officials and some athletes held a minute's silence in memory of the victims.

Black ribbons were added to Ukraine flags hanging on the balconies of their building in the athletes' village.

"I am not a political person, I am totally out of politics and political parties, but I stand against these horrible actions that Yanukovich and his government are taking against our Ukrainian people," Matsotska said.

International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams said the withdrawals were a matter for the Ukrainian team.

He also said it was not the IOC which stopped athletes from wearing black armbands on Wednesday, as they had requested, but that it had been a decision by Ukrainian officials after they met IOC officials.