A Ukrainian skeleton athlete flashed a small sign reading ‘No War in Ukraine’ at the cameras as he completed a race at the Beijing Olympics on Friday night.
Vladyslav Heraskevych’s sign was printed on a piece of blue and yellow paper, matching the colors of his country’s flag. He did not display the sign after his second race of the night, which was his fourth and final race of the Olympics.
“It’s my job. Like all normal people, I don’t want war,” Heraskevych said after finishing the competition. “I want peace in my country, and I want peace in the world. It’s my position, so I fight for it. I fight for peace. .”
The move comes as Russia has rounded up more than 100,000 troops near Ukraine, stoking fears in the West that Moscow is planning an invasion. Russia insists it has no such plans but does not want Ukraine and other former Soviet countries to be allowed to join the Western NATO alliance.
“In Ukraine it’s really nervous now,” Heraskevych said. “A lot of news about guns, about weapons, about what’s going to happen in Ukraine, about some armies around Ukraine. It’s not OK. Not in the 21st century. before the Olympics, which I show my position to the world.”
The International Olympic Committee said there would be no repercussions for Heraskevych’s action, which some believed the organization would consider a violation of Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter. This rule states in part that “no kind of political, religious or racial demonstration or propaganda is permitted at Olympic venues, venues or other areas”.
But the IOC called the Friday night sign a “general call for peace” because it did not explicitly disrespect any opponent or criticize any political target. They considered the case closed.
Heraskevych had earlier said he was not concerned about possible repercussions.
“I hope the Olympics (will support) me in this situation. Nobody wants war,” Heraskevych said.
The IOC has relaxed its rule against protests ahead of the Tokyo Games, allowing athletes to speak out politically before competitions begin – but Heraskevych’s action likely wouldn’t be covered by this as it occurred at the finishing line. Yet the IOC does not always choose to initiate disciplinary action.
“I hope this helps bring peace to our country,” said Heraskevych, who was not a medal contender.