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Ukraine's Lviv quits 2022 bidding race

AFP
The Ukrainian city of Lviv has pulled out of the race to host the 2022 Winter Olympics due to the country's raging crisis, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said
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The Ukrainian city of Lviv has pulled out of the race to host the 2022 Winter Olympics due to the country's raging crisis, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said (AFP Photo/Kirill Kudryavtsev)

Geneva (AFP) - The Ukrainian city of Lviv has pulled out of the race to host the 2022 Winter Olympics due to the country's raging crisis, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said on Monday.

"The decision comes as a result of the present political and economic circumstances in Ukraine, which were discussed between the three parties," the International Olympic Committee said.

Lviv will now shift its focus to bidding to host the 2026 Games, it said.

The IOC said that the decision followed discussions between its president Thomas Bach, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, and pole-vaulting legend Sergey Bubka, who heads the country's National Olympic Committee.

"The preliminary evaluation by the IOC's working group found that the Lviv bid offered huge potential for future development," Bach said in a joint statement with the two Ukrainian officials.

"In my discussions with the Ukrainian Prime Minster and NOC President, we concluded that it would be extremely difficult to pursue the 2022 bid under the current circumstances, but that a future bid would make sense for Ukraine and Ukrainian sport," he added.

Yatsenyuk in turn said that "a bid for 2026 would have excellent potential for the economic recovery of the country, and could have huge benefits for Ukrainian society".

Bubka, meanwhile, thanked the IOC for the "help and understanding" that it had shown to Ukrainian athletes from across the embattled country.

Ukraine, already in the grip of a deep economic crisis, plunged into a fresh round of political chaos late last year amid a massive wave of protests against then president Viktor Yanukovych.

The Moscow-leaning Yanukovych was finally pushed from power in February by a coalition of pro-Western groups and nationalists, whose heartland is in the city of Lviv in the west of Ukraine.

After his departure, Russian-speaking militants rose up against the Ukrainian government.

Moscow in March annexed Ukraine's strategic southern peninsula of Crimea, mainly populated by Russian speakers and long home to Russian military bases.

Ukrainian forces are still battling separatists from the Russian-speaking community in the east and south of Ukraine, while Moscow has denied claims that it is stoking the violence.

The strife has driven more than 160,000 people from their homes, according to the United Nations.

Lviv's withdrawal leaves only Oslo, Beijing and the city of Almaty in Kazakhstan in the race to host the 2022 Games.

On May 26, the Polish city of Krakow pulled out after a local referendum, while Stockholm quit in January.

On July 7, the IOC is to announce which of the three remaining bidders has made the final cut.

The winner is to be announced on July 31, 2015 at an IOC congress in Kuala Lumpur.

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