Tokyo Olympics: Belarus runner leaves Japan for refuge in Poland

Kyodo News

Posted at Aug 04 2021 06:09 PM

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, the Belarusian athlete who was pulled from the Tokyo Olympics over the weekend by her team against her will, left Narita airport near Tokyo on Wednesday for Poland, which has offered her asylum.

Tsimanouskaya, a 24-year-old sprinter, has been granted a humanitarian visa by Poland after she refused to board a flight on Sunday and sought protection from Japanese police at Tokyo's Haneda airport, saying she was being forced to return to Belarus for criticizing her coaches and she feared for her safety if she returned home.

Escorted by officials, Tsimanouskaya, wearing a mask and sunglasses, arrived at Narita airport Wednesday morning after leaving the Polish Embassy in Tokyo but did not respond to reporters' questions. She boarded a flight bound for Vienna with two people believed to be Polish diplomats.

Marcin Przydacz, undersecretary of state for security at the Polish Foreign Ministry, tweeted she is being "taken care of by the Polish diplomatic service. As stated on numerous occasions, due to security considerations we do not disclose the flight details."

Although Tsimanouskaya had to change her direct flight to Warsaw, she will arrive in the Polish capital "today later," according to Pavel Latushka, a leading Belarusian opposition activist based in Poland, who heads the National Anti-Crisis Management.

The International Olympic Committee said it has received a written report from Belarus's National Olympic Committee on the case of Tsimanouskaya.

IOC spokesman Mark Adams told a press briefing that its disciplinary commission will "establish the facts" in the case of the sprinter following the receipt of the report and will question two Belarusian officials who were allegedly involved in trying to put her on a flight back home.

The two officials are Yuri Moisevich, the national team's head coach, and Artur Shumak, deputy director of the country's track and field training center, according to Adams, who did not disclose what was written in the report.

After spending the night at a hotel near Haneda airport under the protection of Japanese authorities, she entered the embassy on Monday and was later granted a humanitarian visa.

The sprinter had complained via social media that she was entered in the 4x400 meter relay despite having never competed in the event. She ran in the 100 meters but did not qualify for the semifinals and had been due to make an appearance in the 200-meter heats on Monday but did not compete.

The Belarusian National Olympic Committee is headed by Viktor Lukashenko, son of the country's President Alexander Lukashenko.

Both have been banned from attending the Tokyo Olympics amid allegations of discrimination against athletes who took part in protests against the president's controversial re-election in August 2020.

The Belarusian committee has not publicly made any comments on the case since saying in a statement on Sunday that it withdrew her from the games "based on doctors' advice regarding her emotional and psychological state."

Poland was among several European countries that had offered to assist Tsimanouskaya. The other countries included Slovenia and the Czech Republic.