Tokyo Olympics Update
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A Belarusian sprinter at the Tokyo Olympics has taken refuge at the Polish embassy in Japan after complaining that he was taken to the airport to criticize his country’s coaches.
According to Polish officials, Christina Simanoskaya, who had previously said on social media that she had entered the 4×400 relay although she had never participated in the event, had applied for and been granted a humanitarian visa.
“According to him, he is planning to come to Poland and was invited by us,” Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Prizdakz told the Financial Times.
Tismanuskaya, who was scheduled to compete in the women’s 200-meter event on Monday, stayed at a hotel at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport on Sunday. Want “protection” From local authorities.
Alexander Lukashenko, Belarus’s brutal leader, has been criticized for rigging last year’s presidential election and launching a campaign to crack down on rival protesters and supporters.
The IOC banned Lukashenko from participating in the Tokyo Games, along with other national officials, including his son Victor, president of the country’s Olympic Committee.
The ban was imposed after Belarusian athletes complained to the authorities about political discrimination and imprisonment. The IOC has frozen payments in addition to paying the athletes directly to the Belarus Olympic Committee.
Although Tismanoskaya did not directly criticize Lukashenko, the Belarusian media mocked the 24-year-old athlete.
“The scandal did not start politically, but has become one of the heaviest hand reactions to his remarks, including a deadly attack on his reputation by the Belarusian state media and then attempts to force him to return home from Tokyo,” the former Manchester Metropolitan University European political expert Eleanor Bindman says.
He said the incident “reflects Lukashenko’s confusion about anything that could lead to criticism of his helpless regime.”
Tismanoskaya had previously said he feared arrest when he returned to Belarus and that he feared returning home for his family.
Her husband Arseniy Zadanevich has left Belarus for Ukraine.
“Where did I go? Kiev, but I will not give details, ”he said Says Sport Express, a Russian sports portal.
Tsimanouskaya was offered a visa individually by the Czech Republic, which, e.g. Poland, Was among the most outspoken critics of Lukashenko. Czech Foreign Minister Jakub Kulhanek had earlier called the situation in Tismanuskaya “scandalous”.
Tsimanouskaya used his social media account Criticize coaches Who said he had registered for events for which he had not trained because other Belarusian athletes had not completed enough doping tests for the competition.
Katsunobu Kato, a spokesman for the Japanese government, said Tokyo was working with the IOC and other local authorities to determine the purpose of the athletes. The IOC said Belarus had requested a report from the Olympic Committee before deciding whether to take further action.
Japanese police did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Sviatlana TsikhanouskayaBelarus’s opposition leader told the Financial Times: “What happened to Kristina Simanovskaya is part of a wider campaign against Belarusian athletes. Today, any criticism of the authorities – even the sports leadership – is considered an attack on the government.
The IOC said it was still working to determine how the athletes left the village in Tismanuska. The sprinter is believed to have traveled to the airport with a team of about 16 Belarusian athletes to leave Japan after their event.
The IOC said it was unclear whether other Belarusian officials or coaches were at the airport with him.
Pictures and videos of Belarusian anti-government activists spread on social media sites show Tismanuskaya refusing to board the plane.
The Belarus Olympic Committee did not respond to a request for comment, but the organization said in a statement that it had removed Tismanuskaya from the competition in consultation with doctors about his “mental state.”
In response, Tismanuskaya posted the statement on Instagram with the message: “This is a lie.”
“I am asking the International Olympic Committee for help [Belarusian officials] They are putting pressure on me and trying to take me out of the country without my consent, ”Tismanuskaya said in a video message recorded Sunday evening from the airport.
Additional report from Katrina Manson in Washington
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