2nd August, 2021
A Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya who refused to board a flight back to Belarus has been offered visas by Poland and the Czech Republic.
The 24 year-old sprinter, who was due to race in the 200 metre heats at Olympic Stadium on Monday, had her Games cut short when she said she was taken to the airport to board a Turkish Airlines flight.
Tsimanouskaya spent the night in an airport hotel after she went to Japanese police at Haneda airport seeking protection late on Sunday, IOC spokesperson Mark Adams told a media conference.
A number of agencies were in contact with the sprinter, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, he added.
Poland and the Czech Republic have publicly offered her assistance.
Polish foreign ministry official Marcin Przydacz wrote on Twitter that Tsimanouskaya has been “offered a humanitarian visa and is free to pursue her sporting career in Poland if she so chooses.”
Czech foreign minister Jakub Kulhanek said he considered the situation around the Belarusian “scandalous.”
“The Czech Republic is ready to help,” he tweeted. “We are offering her a visa to enter the territory so that she can apply for international protection with us. Our embassy in Tokyo is also ready to help.”
“She has assured us she is safe and secure. We are talking again to her this morning to understand what the next steps will be,” Mark Adams, IOC spokesperson said.
“We need to listen to her, find out what she wants and support her in her decision.”
She told a Reuters reporter via Telegram that the Belarusian head coach had turned up at her room on Sunday at the athletes village and told her she had to leave.
“The head coach came over to me and said there had been an order from above to remove me,” she wrote in the message.
“At 5 (pm) they came my room and told me to pack and they took me to the airport.”
But she refused to board the flight, telling Reuters: “I will not return to Belarus.”
The Belarusian Olympic Committee said in a statement coaches had decided to withdraw Tsimanouskaya from the Games on doctors’ advice about her “emotional, psychological state”.
Belarus athletics head coach Yuri Moisevich told state television he “could see there was something wrong with her… She either secluded herself or didn’t want to talk.”
The IOC would continue conversations with Tsimanouskaya on Monday and the Olympics governing body had asked for a full report from the Belarus’ Olympic committee, Adams said.
In response to a number of questions by journalists about what the IOC would do to ensure other athletes in the village were protected, the IOC spokesperson said they were still collecting details about what exactly occurred.