Tokyo Olympics - 'I will not return': Belarusian athlete gets Poland visa, here's how the drama unfolded

WION Web Team
New Delhi, IndiaUpdated: Aug 02, 2021, 06:21 PM IST

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya Photograph:(Reuters)

Story highlights

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, a 24-year-old Belarusian athlete, has triggered a political row after she refused an order to fly home early from the Tokyo Olympics 2020

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, a 24-year-old Belarusian athlete, has triggered a political row after she refused an order to fly home early from the Tokyo Olympics 2020. The track sprinter has also voiced fears for her safety and urged the International Olympic Committee for help. Krystsina was asked to pack and was taken to the airport in Tokyo 'against her will' for allegedly 'criticising' her coaches. However, she did not board the flight and took help from the Japanese police at the airport. 

After refusing to go back home, the Belarusian athlete was spotted being walked into a Polish embassy on Monday. Now, Poland has granted her a humanitarian visa, Poland deputy foreign minister said Monday (August 2).

Tsimanouskaya "is already in direct contact with Polish diplomats in Tokyo. She has received a humanitarian visa. Poland will do whatever is necessary to help her to continue her sporting career," Marcin Przydacz wrote on Twitter.


Foreign ministry officials were quoted by Polish media saying they expected the athlete to travel to Poland this week

Here's what happened:

In a video, shared on the Telegram channel of the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation (BSSF), Krystsina revealed that "They [the officials] are trying to get me out of the country without my permission". However, she refused to leave and sought the protection of Japanese police at the airport. BSSF, which was set up in August 2020, supports athletes that have been jailed or sidelined for their political views. 

The sprinter, who was supposed to compete in the women's 200m event on Monday (August 2), had also complained about being asked to enter into another race at short notice. In the video, she alleged that after some teammates were found to be ineligible to compete, she was added to the 400m relay event (scheduled for this Thursday (August 5)) at short notice by Belarusian officials. She said, she was "put under pressure". 

"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."

"I think I am safe. I am with the police," she was heard saying at the airport.


What Belarusian Olympic Committee said?

As soon as the incident came into the limelight, The Belarusian Olympic Committee said in a statement that the coaches had decided to withdraw Tsimanouskaya from the Games on doctors' advice about her "emotional, psychological state". 

Yuri Moisevich, as quoted by Reuters, the Belarus athletics head coach told state television that he "could see there was something wrong with her... She either secluded herself or didn't want to talk." 

What IOC said?

On being asked about the safety of athletes, the IOC said they were still collecting details about what exactly happened. 

What Japanese government say?

The Japanese government said the athlete had been kept safe while Tokyo 2020 organisers and the IOC checked her intentions. "Japan is coordinating with relevant parties and continue to take appropriate action," said chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato.

What's next?

Poland has granted a humanitarian visa to Krystsina. Poland's deputy foreign minister said said Tsimanouskaya had turned to Poland for help out of her "very difficult" situation and was "safe on the grounds of our embassy" in Tokyo, news channel TVN24 reported.

"Poland offers support to Belarusian citizens who for political reasons either want to leave Belarusian territory or do not want to return to Belarus," he said. 

Earlier, the minister had raised the issue and 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."



(with inputs from agencies)

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