By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) – The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) will support Ukrainian athletes seeking to resettle in Australia on humanitarian grounds amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, outgoing AOC President John Coates said on Saturday.
Coates told the AOC’s annual general meeting in Sydney that it was “sad” young Ukrainian athletes were swapping sports equipment to take up arms against Russia’s forces.
“Today I announced that the AOC executive has by circular resolution last week, determined that the AOC will support humanitarian visa applications by Ukrainian athletes and will seek the assistance of you, our member sports, in their settlement requirements,” said Coates, who is also a vice president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Coates added that the AOC would contribute $100,000 to the IOC’s “Solidarity Fund” for the Ukrainian Olympic community.
“As Ukrainians are forced to defend their families and homes, Ukrainian athletes are amongst them,” said Coates.
“Many have returned home for this purpose, and how sad it is that young men and women just swapped their rackets and running spikes for rifles and flak jackets.”
Coates, retiring as AOC president after 32 years, used his final address to the annual meeting to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“They have lost their right to membership of the international Olympic community. There are no stadiums for their colours, no poles for their flags, no music for their songs and no dais for their athletes,” he said.
“That is the position of the IOC and the AOC. A position which remains until such time as there is cause to change.”
(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)