Belarus sprinter 'safe in Tokyo hotel' as European countries offer her asylum

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Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya is escorted by police officers at Haneda international airport in Tokyo - REUTERS/Issei Kato
Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya is escorted by police officers at Haneda international airport in Tokyo - REUTERS/Issei Kato

A Belarusian athlete who refused to board a flight after she said she was taken to the airport by her team against her wishes was "safe and secure" in Tokyo, the International Olympic Committee said on Monday.

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, 24, spent the night in an airport hotel after she went to Japanese police at Haneda airport seeking protection late on Sunday, IOC spokesperson Mark Adams told a media conference. A number of agencies were in contact with the sprinter, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, he added.

In a brewing diplomatic incident, it was unclear where Ms Tsimanouskaya would end up with both Poland and the Czech Republic publicly offering her assistance.

Clement Beaune, the French minister for European affairs, said on Monday it would be an 'honour' to grant her asylum.

"Political asylum - it would be an honour for Europe to do so," Mr Beaune told RFI radio.

"She has assured us she is safe and secure. We are talking again to her this morning to understand what the next steps will be," Mr Adams said. "We need to listen to her, find out what she wants and support her in her decision."

The sprinter, who was due to race in the 200 metre heats at Olympic Stadium on Monday, had her Games cut short when she said she was taken to the airport to board a Turkish Airlines flight.

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya has competed in several Olympic events - REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel/File Photo
Krystsina Tsimanouskaya has competed in several Olympic events - REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel/File Photo

She said that the Belarusian head coach had turned up at her room on Sunday at the athletes village and told her she had to leave.

"The head coach came over to me and said there had been an order from above to remove me," she wrote in the message. "At 5 (pm) they came my room and told me to pack and they took me to the airport."

But she refused to board the flight, telling Reuters: "I will not return to Belarus."

The Belarusian Olympic Committee said in a statement coaches had decided to withdraw Tsimanouskaya from the Games on doctors' advice about her "emotional, psychological state".

Belarus athletics head coach Yuri Moisevich told state television he "could see there was something wrong with her... She either secluded herself or didn't want to talk."

The IOC would continue conversations with Tsimanouskaya on Monday and the Olympics governing body had asked for a full report from the Belarus' Olympic committee, Adams said.

In response to a number of questions by journalists about what the IOC would do to ensure other athletes in the village were protected, the IOC spokesperson said they were still collecting details about what exactly occurred.

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