SOCHI, Russia (AP) - With the political crisis at home showing no signs of abating, Ukrainian officials insisted Sunday that their bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics will not be derailed - and will help unite the country.
The Ukrainian city of Lviv (pronounced leh-VEEV) is one of five contenders for the 2022 Games. Bid officials held a news conference in Sochi to promote their case but were repeatedly questioned about the anti-government demonstrations that have gripped the country for months.
“The Olympics are above any politics,” Acting Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Vilkul said. “Ukraine will resolve all its political problems and issues and will come out stronger and together.”
With the International Olympic Committee to select a short list of finalists in July, Ukraine is under pressure to overcome its problems quickly to have any hope of making the cut. Last year, Istanbul’s bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics was severely damaged by the anti-government protests in Turkey.
The head of Ukraine’s national Olympic committee, pole vault great Sergei Bubka, said the games are eight years away and Lviv has time to sort out the situation.
“It will be settled,” he said. “We are building our future and democracy. The major issue in this moment, I’m confident it will be settled very shortly.”
“I’m confident that the games will make our nation stronger,” added Bubka, who also sits on the IOC executive board. “I’m confident in a bright future for our country.”
Ukraine has seen intense and often violent protests for more than two months since the government’s decision to reject closer ties with the European Union in favor of Russia.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and Russian President Vladimir Putin met on the sidelines of the opening ceremony for the Sochi Olympics on Friday. Ukraine has a team of 43 athletes competing in Sochi.
The Lviv bid leaders said they would not pull out of the race and will submit their detailed files to the IOC by the March 14 deadline.
The other candidates are Almaty, Kazakhstan; Beijing; Krakow, Poland; and Oslo, Norway.
The IOC executive board will meet on July 8-9 in Lausanne, Switzerland, to decide which cities reach the final stage of the campaign. The full IOC will select the winner on July 31, 2015, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The Lviv bid said hosting the Olympics would help Ukraine “jump 20-30 years forward.”
This is the first Olympic bid from Ukraine, whose has more of a tradition of summer rather than winter sports.
The Lviv committee said the bid has wide backing from the government and the public, citing support ratings of more than 70 percent. Ukraine co-hosted the 2012 European soccer championship with Poland.
The city of Lviv would host the indoor events, as well as bobsled and luge. The ski events would be held in the Carpathian mountains 150 kilometers (90 miles) west of Lviv.
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