World Athletics leader Sebastian Coe visits Ukraine and invites Zelenskyy to Olympic track meet

World Athletics leader Sebastian Coe visited Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv over the weekend, reiterating his sport’s support for the war-torn country and inviting Zelenskyy to the track and field meet at the Paris Olympics.

The track and field federation has taken as strong a stance as any Olympic sport regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, stating shortly after it started in February 2022 that Russian athletes would not be allowed to compete in international track competitions.

“Nothing I witnessed tells me that the decision we’ve taken is anything other than the right decision, but the right decision on behalf of our sport,” Coe said. “I don’t make judgments about other sports.”

The International Olympic Committee created guidelines for allowing Russians to compete but not under their own flag, while leaving the final decisions to the individual sports. As of June 28, 14 athletes with Russian passports had accepted invitations to compete in four sports at the Paris Games.

Coe said the main purpose of the visit was to talk to athletes, whose training and coaching have been decimated over the span of the war. Coe said he felt the visit was necessary given the lengths to which Ukrainians have gone to remain a part of track and field’s global competitions.

“They have assiduously made our championships, and I’m talking about a complicated journey,” he said. “It was a very small sacrifice but hugely important that our sport was there.”

World Athletics and other national federations in track have created a fund, and supplied training facilities, geared toward supporting Ukrainian athletes as they train, qualify and compete for international events.

“If you don’t have training facilities and don’t have the opportunity to train, then competition, it’s a mere detail,” Coe said.


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