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Ukrainian calls for 'No war in Ukraine,' challenging IOC rules on demonstrations

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YANQING, China — Ukrainian Olympic athlete Vladyslav Heraskevych called for “No war in Ukraine” shortly after a skeleton run here on Friday night, the first major political statement from an athlete at the Beijing Games.

Heraskevych flashed the messaged to TV cameras on a sign that was yellow and light blue — the colors of Ukraine’s national flag.

His demonstration came amid rising tensions between Ukraine and Russia, and buildups of Russian troops that have many in the region and elsewhere fearing invasion and war.

Heraskevych, 23, is from Kyiv. He held up the sign after his third of four runs in the skeleton competition, which ends Friday night. He is not a medal contender.

Ukraine's Vladyslav Heraskevych holds up a sign reading 'No war in Ukraine' after completing his third un in the men's skeleton at the Beijing Olympics. (NBC screenshot)
Ukrainian Vladyslav Heraskevych holds up a sign reading 'No war in Ukraine' after completing his third run in the men's skeleton at the Beijing Olympics. (NBC screenshot)

His demonstration will test the boundaries of the International Olympic Committee’s Rule 50, which states that “no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.”

The IOC has never defined “demonstration” or “political propaganda.” Heraskevych’s message, though pacifist, would fit most definitions.

The IOC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The IOC recently loosened the rules to allow for some protests prior to the start of competitions. But ceremonies and “the field of play” remained off limits, according to guidelines for the Beijing Winter Games established in November 2021.

The IOC has also not stipulated punishments, but instead promised to evaluate cases individually, based on the “degree of disruption caused,” the nature of the gesture and other factors.

One of those factors is “whether another participant complained about the expression.” There were two Russian skeleton racers also competing in the event.