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Plight of Belarus Athletes
News Bytes 08/5/2021 22 Comments

Belarusian team officials tried to send Olympic sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya back to Belarus. But after receiving threats from authorities, the athlete is seeking refuge in the European Union instead. The tense situation highlights the oppressive environment in the athlete’s home country.

Belarus is an ex-Soviet nation. Authorities there have unleashed a relentless crackdown on dissent. The problems began with intense protests after President Alexander Lukashenko’s re-election to a sixth term last year. Many global leaders saw the election as rigged. (See Belarusian Leader above Law?)

Like journalists and others in the country, Belarusian athletes have faced paybacks—including beatings, arrests, raids, and kidnappings—after speaking out against the authorities. The actions of Belarusian authorities smack of those of the scoundrel in Isaiah 32:7: “His devices are evil; he plans wicked schemes to ruin the poor with lying words, even when the plea of the needy is right.”

Sprinter Tsimanouskaya criticized the management of her team on social media. She says Belarusian officials made it clear this week that she would “definitely face some form of punishment” when she arrived home.

Poland quickly granted Tsimanouskaya a humanitarian visa to protect her from possible persecution. The athlete boarded a plane yesterday at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport. The plane left the gate for Vienna, Austria, though it was not clear whether that would be her final destination.

President Lukashenko has a keen interest in sports. He served as the head of the Belarus National Olympic Committee for almost 25 years before handing over the post to his older son in February. Lukashenko has sternly warned Belarus Olympic athletes that they had better perform well at the Games.

“If you go there like tourists and bring nothing back, you better not return to the country,” Lukashenko has said.

The International Olympic Committee has investigated complaints from athletes. Many say they faced reprisals and intimidation during the crackdown on protests in the country. As a result, the leader and his son have both been banned from the Tokyo Olympics.

According to Valery Karbalevich, an independent Belarusian political analyst, “Lukashenko sees sports as a showcase of his regime, he wants to make it shine, and he considers any failures and losses as a blow to his personal reputation and authority.”

Belarus basketball star Yelena Leuchanka, an ex-WNBA player, spent 15 days in jail in October after protesting peacefully against authorities. She later told reporters that prison conditions were awful—with no hot water or toilet in her cell and inmates forced to sleep on metal beds without mattresses.

Maria Shakuro, the captain of the Belarus national rugby team, also served 10 days in jail for participating in a peaceful protest.

The legendary Olympic hammer thrower, Vadim Devyatovsky, lost his job in September as the head of the country’s athletics federation after a Facebook post critical of Lukashenko.

Officials also fired Natalya Petrakova, one of the most famous Belarusian handball players, as the senior coach of the women’s handball national team after she signed a letter of protest.

The Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation says a total of 124 athletes have served jail terms, faced dismissals, or other repressive action.

“The horrible situation in the country is also reflected in sports,” says activist Vadim Krivosheyev. “All the power of the repressive machine has been directed at athletes who dared to express their civic position. Sports in Belarus is facing quick degradation as only those athletes who are loyal [to the authorities] are allowed to perform.”

(Krystsina Tsimanouskaya of Belarus runs in the women’s 100-meter sprint at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan. AP/Martin Meissner)

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Most recent comments

1st comment

That's terrible, I feel so bad for the citizens and athletes

1st comment

That's terrible, I feel so bad for the citizens and athletes

3rd comment

I know! They are facing so much!!! Just treat them well and let them do the best they can at the games and be able to come back without fear!!!!!
@Everyone: I highly suggest watching something about Eric Liddle right now. He was a Christian runner who qualified for the Olympics but wouldn't run because his race was on a Sunday. He ran different ones on Saturday instead, and then he went to china as a missionary to help during the Japanses invasion of China. He was the fastest runner on earth at that point. We watched the Torchlighter one last night, and might watch Chariots of Fire at some point soon.

3rd comment

I know! They are facing so much!!! Just treat them well and let them do the best they can at the games and be able to come back without fear!!!!!
@Everyone: I highly suggest watching something about Eric Liddle right now. He was a Christian runner who qualified for the Olympics but wouldn't run because his race was on a Sunday. He ran different ones on Saturday instead, and then he went to china as a missionary to help during the Japanses invasion of China. He was the fastest runner on earth at that point. We watched the Torchlighter one last night, and might watch Chariots of Fire at some point soon.

I watched some of the

I watched some of the Olympics but couldn't watch anymore bc their clothes are so tight!!! I understand the whole aerodynamics but still...:/
And this is terrible.

That is terrible!

That is terrible!

Torchlighters

We saw that too I read a biography on him and one time while he was in China he needed to run a race and catch a ship right after so he ran the race (and won) and then continued to run to his taxi but then they started playing englands National anthem so he stood at attention and when it was over he ran and was 15 ft away from the taxi when they started playing the French anthem cause a French runner came in second as soon as it was over he jumped in the taxi which he put his bags in prior to the race and they drove to the dock when he got their the ship was already leaving a thought for second then hurled his bags on the deck then he went back several feet and jumped 15feet! On to the deck of the ship

Torchlighters

We saw that too I read a biography on him and one time while he was in China he needed to run a race and catch a ship right after so he ran the race (and won) and then continued to run to his taxi but then they started playing englands National anthem so he stood at attention and when it was over he ran and was 15 ft away from the taxi when they started playing the French anthem cause a French runner came in second as soon as it was over he jumped in the taxi which he put his bags in prior to the race and they drove to the dock when he got their the ship was already leaving a thought for second then hurled his bags on the deck then he went back several feet and jumped 15feet! On to the deck of the ship

:-(

:-(

@Above

@Franz: Wow!
@NA: Yeah. I think it would be so fun to watch the Olympics, but we are not partly because their clothes are so not modest, and partly because it has become so political and the athletes keep saying all kinds of junk and such.

@ Riley

Yeah....it's awful.....

@Riley

I saw that torch lighters episode too! It was good, but I like the Perpetua one better.
Yeah, this isn't fair! I saw this on WORLD Watch the other day. And I don't think people should have such high expectations, isn't this supposed to be for fun?

Okay...

So, about the no running races on Sunday thing... is it really that bad? Couldn't you do it on Sunday to the glory of God? I feel like not doing it on Sunday does more harm than good. I mean, don't get me wrong, if any of you choose not to do things on Sunday, that's fine, but I don't know that it's that important. Also, the national anthem thing, does that mean we should always stand when we hear the national anthem? (A real question. I don't really know the etiquette, even though I have been living here my whole life. XP) And the thing about Olympics outfits being inappropriate, I think so too. We just don't watch them because we aren't really interested in any of the sports done. We watched them in.... 2016? I think. Because my sister was doing gymnastics, but we only watched the gymnastics parts.
I have a joke.
Q: What is Batman's favorite fruit?
A: Bananananananana-- Grapefruit!

@Addie L.

That joke was very corny and cheesy. And what do you get from that? Cheese puffs!

@Addie L

Running on Sunday: It really depends on who you are. Back in Eric's time, he took his faith very seriously, and he probably took seriously the part about resting on Sunday. One of the Ten Commandments are "Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy." I guess it is up to the person to decide if running a race in the Olympics is holy or not.
National Anthem: Let me put it this way: If you respect our country and our flag, and the price that was paid for it, and is still being paid for it, then you should always stand when the Anthem is being played. It shows respect. Men should also take off their hats. Now, there are certain situations, such as being crippled in a wheelchair or something like that, where you wouldn't have to stand up. But if you can, I do it. And place your right hand over your heart.

@Above

@Ranen- Thank you! I would like to take credit for it, but I saw a guy do it on a video.
@Riley- Okay, that is what I thought about the Anthem. That makes sense that he might have taken the resting on Sunday very literally. (Although, in the New Testament, Jesus specifically says that it's okay to work on Sunday. Did he just skip that part, or...? XD I think I'm overthinking this.)

@Addie

Let me tell you what my family does: Sunday, we take time to sleep in, enjoy a nice breakfast, and then we do home church in the morning. We do lunch, wash the dishes, and then we usually just hang out play games, just be a family. If there is something that NEEDS to be done like moving cattle, we will do it, but it won't be like a week day that is full of work. Jesus certainly said we can work on Sunday. My family cooks, does dishes, etc, but we don't go around mowing the yard, cleaning floors and bathrooms, etc. We try to make it more of a restful day to refocus on God and the coming week ahead. Does that make sense? In the Old Testament they could not even cook or wash dishes or even walk far. Jesus said to change some of those, so we can cook, and do simple things like that. that is how we look at it.

@Riley D

Just wondering: Why do you do home church instead of going to church? I've never met anyone who does home church. Also, what is home church? XD
Our Sunday morning is usually: Get up fairly early, get dressed, go to church until lunch time, drive home and get food on the way back, eat at home, relax all Sunday afternoon, then get ready for Monday with showers, a quick supper, and bedtime. We have a Sabbath dinner on Saturday nights where we have a big meal and sometimes invite family. So sometimes on Sunday we clean up from that.

@Addie

Well, we do home church mainly because we don't always agree with other pastors on things, and we feel like sometimes they are not taking the scriptures correctly. Home church for us is where our family gathers in the living room, my great grandma comes over too, as well as my grandparents (moms side) if they are nnot on vacation, and then Mom plays the piano and we sing some hymns, and then we read a chapter out of the Bible and talk over it, Dad acting as "pastor". Right now we are in Timothy. then we pray then we have lunch. But that is our day to sleep in because we don't have to be to church at a certain time. What for you is a big Sabbath meal? What makes it different than a normal dinner?

@Riley D

That's sad that you don't go to a regular church, but I understand if there aren't any churches that you agree with in your area. Maybe y'all could start your own church by inviting other people outside your family to your home church on Sundays! Sabbath dinner is bigger in that we have fancier food (i.e. not chicken nuggets or other fast food, more like steak and mashed potatoes or a roast with macaroni and cheese [the good kind]) and use nicer dishes. We eat quite a bit of fast food because that usually works with our schedules, so Sabbath dinner is at least one day a week that my mom gets to cook a whole meal.

@Riley

Okay, my church is a little different. Very much so :). We used to meet at an old school, then a photography studio, THEN a movie theatre, and after that an Art Share. Basically an art museum. Sometimes, they would have to cover up some inappropriate paintings with curse-words on them. But it was nice, overall. For worship, the church members who could play electric guitars, drums, piano, vocals would lead worship.
Now, we meet at a place called the Terasaki Budukan for church. After church, my family usually swings by the Japanese Market and rushes to our piano lesson. Other than that, I just relax at home, play with the animals or read.

@Above

@Addie: I don't mind home church that much, but there are times that i wish I was part of a youth group or something where I could be around kids my age. I have very little friends that live here, because I don't go to school or church, and in 4-H everyone already has their little cluster of friends they hang out with. So I pretty much have one closer friend and two no as close, butstill friends. My best friend lives 8 hours away. Those friends are meaning girls my age. We have a lot of family friends, but they are a lot of boys, which are still fun, but you just can't be as close with them. Oh I see about your Sabbath meal now. See, in my family, we home cook a meal like that pretty much every night. We hardly ever eat fast food.
@Scarlett: Wow that is different! But that is still cool! I reminds me of the Laura Ingalls TV Series where they church used the same building as the school, they would just hang a curtain over the blackboards,!

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