The athletes are going, but government officials are not.
This was probably inevitable, but governments are starting to announce that they will not be sending government delegations to the Winter Paralympic Games in Sochi — scheduled to begin later this week — due to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
The White House released this statement on Monday morning.
"In addition to other measures we are taking in response to the situation in Ukraine, the United States will no longer send a Presidential Delegation to the upcoming Winter Paralympic Games in Sochi.
"President Obama continues to strongly support all of the U.S. athletes who will participate in the Paralympics and wishes them great success in the Olympic competition."
British Prime Minister David Cameron made a similar announcement via Twitter on Sunday.
Because of the serious situation in Ukraine, @WilliamJHague & I believe it would be wrong for UK Ministers to attend the Sochi Paralympics.
— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) March 2, 2014
And, on Monday afternoon, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said that Canada, too, will cancel any ministerial delegation to the Games.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird did hint at that over the weekend.
"Well listen, I mean this is not … this is about the athletes and not about governments. But we sent the Minister of State for Sport to the Olympics last month and I think we’re going to have to obviously reconsider any government involvement, but we don’t want the athletes to pay the price for this," Baird told Global News on Sunday morning.
"I don’t think there’s any way we’d want to have senior level government leadership going there to somehow glorify Russia’s time in the spotlight. At the same time, this matters a lot to our Paralympic athletes and we obviously don’t want them to be affected."
The strong rebukes are meant to further isolate Russia over its 'occupation' in the Crimea region of Ukraine.
According to CNN, there are now approximately 6,000 Russian troops in Crimea, while another 150,000 are staging war games along the land border between the two nations.
G7 countries have condemned the action; Canada has recalled its ambassador to Russia and has vowed to boycott preparatory meetings for June's G8 summit, also scheduled for Sochi.
While some are calling for an actual athlete boycott of the Paralympics, it might be a little a too late.
According to the official Twitter page of the Games, more than half of the athletes have already descended upon the host city.
— Paralympic Games (@Paralympic) March 3, 2014
The Games are set to begin on Friday.
(Photo courtesy of Reuters)
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