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“No way” Belarus can host European Track Cycling Championships following Ryanair flight forced landing outcry, says GB team boss

European federation decides tomorrow future of event following outcry over forced Ryanair flight diversion

Great Britain Cycling Team performance director Stephen Park has said there is “no way” that Belarus can host the European Track Cycling Championships next month following the outcry over the forced landing in Minsk earlier this week of a Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania carrying dissident journalist Roman Protasevich, who was removed from the aircraft and arrested, together with his partner.

The championships, due to take place from 23-27 June have taken on additional significance this year due to the lack of competition top track cyclists have experienced in the build-up to the postponed Tokyo Olympics, which begin in late July, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Writing on Twitter, Park said: “With 27 EU member states telling EU airlines not to fly over Belarus, and promising further economic sanctions there can surely be no way the @UEC_cycling can continue to deliver the Track Euros in Minsk next month.”

Continental governing body the Union Européenne de Cyclisme (UEC) has said that “In light of the recent international events [it] is carefully monitoring the situation,” and that a decision will be made at its management board meeting tomorrow over the event.

It added that no further update would be provided until that meeting has taken place, although essentially it is faced with three choices – to let the event proceed as planned, which looks highly unlikely, to cancel it altogether, or switch it to another country, which given the importance of pre-Olympic competition would presumably be most welcomed by the continent’s major federations.

BDR, the German national cycling federation, informed the UEC yesterday that it would not be participating in the event as a result of what the EU has described as an “attack on European sovereignty.”

The Dutch national federation, the KNWU, has not yet formally withdrawn from the championships, but its head yesterday advised its athletes not to travel to Minsk, reports NL Times.

The governing body’s chair, Thorwald Veneberg, speaking on the radio show Langs de Lijn En Omreken, said: “For us, the importance of sport matters. But it should not be an expedition, especially if there are all kinds of consequences that we cannot foresee. Then you should not take the risk.

“We are really heading for a major political crisis,” he continued. “I wouldn't want to go there anyway, but there are athletes who say: there are so few competitions, I still have to prepare for the Olympics. My advice is not to do that." he added.

Despite the saying that “sport and politics shouldn’t mix,” the fact is that they very often do, and Park was asked on Twitter about whether GB cyclists should compete in upcoming events elsewhere.

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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Jetmans Dad | 2 years ago

To be honest, I am surprised the decision hasn't already been made. The IIHF removed Belarus as host of the World Ice Hockey Championships due to the situation there (and with full support of the Belarus opposition parties) even before this latest incident. 

Sam3 | 2 years ago
1 like

This is a manufactured drama.

All the EU nations sat quietly and either did not critisize, while several of them actively participated in a US-driven action force Evo Morales presidential jet to land in Austria, so they could search for the whistleblower and US dissident Snowden:

Meanwhile the EU courts just this week ruled that Snowden had indeed revealed unconstititional behavior by EU governments that violated the rights of European people:

This type of monstrous political hypocrisy and gaslighting should not be allowed to interfere with sports, which is one of the few arenas that is successful in bringing human beings closer together in peace!

Gkam84 replied to Sam3 | 2 years ago
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It's already been decided, they aren't going to Minsk, the UEC is just trying to work out where to hold it. With no one flying into Belarussian air space, it makes it rather pointless in holding it there.

SaintClarence27 replied to Sam3 | 2 years ago

So two wrongs *do* make a right, is that what you're saying?

Sam3 replied to SaintClarence27 | 2 years ago


  • - Grounding jets to hunt for dissidents - and whistleblowers -  is wrong.
  • - Sitting in glass houses while falling stones is wrong - and strips you of all moral authority, leaving nothing but hypocrisy.

Hopefully its not going to strain anyone's mind to detect the problem here. 

What should be clear is this has nothing to do with sport - and not even democracy. Every government posturing here just got exposed as not giving a damn about the rights of their own citizens - and noe of them stood up for Snowden:


Compact Corned Beef replied to Sam3 | 2 years ago
1 like

I don't think it can be construed as confected indignation. I imagine in the European corridors of power there really is a sense of outrage, regardless of any charges of hypocrisy (which seem totally warranted) even if it's only because 'the other guys' did it this time around. That being said, precedent doesn't make the act itself any less wrong, nor Lukashenko's thin-skinned autocracy any less authoritarian.

Psi Squared replied to Sam3 | 2 years ago

While there's no doubt that the US used political influence to send a message to Morales and ground his, there's a big difference between what happened in these two case: the US did not send a fighter jet to force Morales' flight down.
That's a huge difference.  If you don't see that difference, then perhaps you might want to look a bit more closely at Alexander Lukashenko and his rule in Belarus.

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