Warsaw (AP) – The alleged attempted kidnapping of sprinter Kristina Timanowskaja at the Tokyo Games has consequences for Belarus’ sports elite. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has opened a formal investigation.
Representatives of athletes also call for an immediate ban on the NOK of Belarus (Belarus). The sportswoman, who according to the Belarusian opposition would be forced to return to Minsk “by force”, will soon leave for the Polish asylum. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki demanded that the “aggression of the Belarusian security services on Japanese soil” must meet “resolute resistance from the international community”.
Timanovskaya was targeted by Belarusian authorities for criticizing sports officials in her home country. At Haneda Airport, she refused the return flight and turned to the Japanese police.
“She is exhausted, scared, but very grateful for our help at this extremely difficult time in her sports career,” said Polish Ambassador to Japan, Pawel Milewski. Poland had granted the 24-year-old a humanitarian visa. On Tuesday, Milewski posted a joint photo, writing, “You’re fine.”
The IOC also claimed that Timanovskaya had said in several conversations that she felt “safe and protected”. The Belarus Olympic Committee is expected to take a position on the matter on Tuesday. “We need to establish all the facts and hear all concerned before taking any further action,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. Adams declined to say when the IOC would complete its investigation. “These things take time. We need to get to the bottom of this,” he said.
Alliances of athletes such as Athleten Germany and Global Athlete campaigned for a crackdown. “The IOC should immediately suspend the Belarus Olympic Committee and allow all athletes from Belarus to run as neutral athletes under the Olympic flag,” said Global Athlete General Director Rob Koehler of the Canadian TV channel CBC.
Belarus’ NOK has been out of favor with the IOC for some time. Rulers Alexander Lukashenko, who also long headed the NOK, and his son Viktor, who is now the association’s head, were banned from all Olympic activities, including the Tokyo Games. The NOK leadership around the Lukashenkos did not adequately protect athletes from political discrimination within the country’s sports organizations, IOC chief Thomas Bach justified the sanctions last December. All financial donations to the NOK of Belarus have also been suspended for the time being.
Timanowskaja is waiting for a flight to Poland
Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki spoke in the Timanowskaya case of a “criminal attempt to kidnap a sportswoman who is critical of the Belarusian regime”.
Timanowskaya was also in the Polish embassy in Tokyo on Tuesday. There she expects the flight to Poland, said BBC deputy foreign minister Marcin Przdacz. “She is very welcome to continue her sports career on Polish soil,” he emphasized.
According to the IOC, it has contacted the National Olympic Committee of Poland to ask how to support Timanovskaya in the future. “Our number one priority is the safety of the athletes,” said IOC spokesman Adams. The IOC’s approach should encourage not only Belarusian athletes, but also all athletes that the umbrella organization will listen to their concerns with open ears.