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Ukraine’s 20 Paralympic athletes have yet to arrive in China

AP – None of the 20 athletes from the Ukrainian Paralympic team has reached Beijing with the Games opening at the end of the week, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) said yeterday.

IPC spokesman Craig Spence, in an interview with The Associated Press, said he was hopeful the athletes would arrive in China for Friday’s opening ceremony despite difficult logistics.

He declined to disclose the team’s whereabouts, citing safety concerns and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. “We’re in regular dialogue with Ukraine about their participation at the Games, and we’re working hard behind the scenes to get them here,” Spence said.

He said there were no flights out of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. In addition, flights entering China for the Paralympics – as well as for the just-closed Olympics – can originate only from a few designated hub airports. This is part of China’s severe “closed-loop system” for the Olympics and Paralympics, which limits athletes, staff and journalists to designated hotels, venues, and a media centre with no contact with Beijing and its 20 million residents.

“For several reason we are not confirming their location or providing specific updates,” Spence said. “The health and welfare of the delegation is our number one priority. The less said about where they are, the better.”

Spence said a few non-athletes from the Ukrainian delegation were on hand.

He said some of Russia’s 71 athletes had arrived, but he did not exactly know how many.
About 650 athletes from 49 delegations, including Ukraine, are expected for the Paralympics, which open on Friday and close on March 13.

Athletes from Ukraine and elsewhere have sent an open letter to Olympic and Paralympic leaders, asking them to suspend the Russian and Belarusian Olympic and Paralympic Committees.