Entries tagged "ukraine"

Opening Guns, Closing Accounts

Paralympic torch at the closing ceremony

Two weeks ago, the Sochi 2014 Paralympic flame was extinguished, dramatically, in a bowl of ice. The Paralympic flag was handed over to South Korea, the next host for the Winter Games. 

The 2014 Games began under a cloud that was eerily reminiscent of the past.  In the 1980 Summer Games, the US withdrew its athletes from competition in protest of the Soviet incursion into Afghanistan. America was joined by Japan, West Germany, China, Canada, and other nations. 

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The Ukraine Question

Overshadowing the 2014 Paralympics has been, and still is, the question of Ukraine. With the threat of a Russia-Ukraine war hanging and world leaders scrambling, the Ukrainian delegation was torn: Should they withdraw in protest, or stay and compete in the Paralympic spirit of neutrality? 

This afternoon, just hours before the Opening Ceremonies, the announcement came: the delegation would participate. In a press conference, Valeriy Suskevich, Ukraine’s head of Paralympics, made a point of saying, “Don’t let us start a war during the Paralympic Games,” but he also promised his delegation would leave immediately if there was more conflict. 

So there was a moment of real drama when Ukraine was announced in tonight’s parade of athletes – and only one person emerged into the stadium wearing Ukraine’s distinctive blue and yellow. Flag bearer Mykhailo Tkachenko, a biathlon athlete, wheeled his way across the stage with a somber expression on his face. The crowd erupted in huge cheers – the only cheers that were louder were for their own Russian delegation – but Tkachenko never waved or acknowledged the crowd. 

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