In its continuing effort to keep the Olympic Games nonpolitical and athletically focused, the International Olympic Committee has forbidden the Ukrainian delegation to wear black armbands to commemorate the deaths of those lost in Kiev rioting this week.
Violent protests in Kiev over alleged government corruption have led to the deaths of 26 people, and both the ruling government and anti-government forces have pledged to escalate the violence if necessary. The Ukrainian delegation posted a statement on its website:
"Sharing deep pain over the loss of fellow countrymen, the Ukrainian Olympic committee appealed to the International Olympic Committee to allow Ukrainian athletes to wear black armbands as a sign of mourning, an expression of sorrow and sympathy. The answer was received from the IOC that in accordance with the Olympic charter it is not possible to do this."
The IOC has long sought to keep its Games from being used for political purposes, either as overall statements of national superiority or on a more individual level. Earlier in this Games, the IOC forbade the Norwegian delegation to wear black to honor a deceased relative of an athlete.
Still, Kiev is less than a thousand miles from Sochi, and its struggles reverberate throughout the entire nation of Russia. Sergey Bubka, head of the Ukrainian delegation, has urged both sides to find peace:
Deep condolences to victims in Kyiv. My appeal to all sides: please remember the tradition of Olympic Truce, lay down weapons!
— Sergey Bubka (@sergey_bubka) February 19, 2014
Although nations participating in the Olympics are supposed to observe an "Olympic Truce" and cease hostilities for the length of the Games, that notion today seems even more quaint than the idea of amateur athletes.
The Sochi Olympics conclude on Sunday. The deep divisions in Kiev will last far longer.
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