Canadian Paralympians safe in Sochi, head of delegation says
Published Monday, March 3, 2014 10:01PM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 2:34PM EST
Canadian athletes are set to compete in the Paralympic Games in Sochi this week as tensions continue to build between Russia and Ukraine.
Team Canada athletes have begun arriving for the Games, which run from March 7 to 16.
Although the Canada Paralympic Committee says there are no plans to back out, the Canadian, American and British governments have all said they would not be sending politicians to Sochi for the opening ceremony.
The decision came over the weekend, as Russia moved in soldiers and took control of the Crimea region. The regional capital, Simferopol, is located 475 kilometres from Sochi.
With developments in Ukraine changing rapidly, some athletes are concerned that the safety of athletes will become a second thought.
“Our team was worried when we woke up today a little bit,” said Greg Westlake, a member of the Canadian sledge hockey team. “So I went and talked to everybody.”
The head of the Canadian delegation says the athletes in Sochi are safe.
“The security level has not changed since the time of the Olympics, or in the last several weeks,” Gaetan Tardif, president of the Canadian Paralympic Committee, told CTV News.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has also said Canada won’t withdraw its athletes from Sochi.
Canadian athletes have sat out of Olympic competition in the past. In 1980, Ottawa was one of 60 countries to boycott the Moscow Games over Russia’s invasion of Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, Olympians who have just returned from the Winter Games in Sochi say they want to see their colleagues get the same opportunity to compete.
“I think it’s really unfair to put it on the athletes to decide such a huge topic, such a political topic,” said Canadian Olympic figure skater Patrick Chan.
Fellow Olympian Tessa Virtue said athletes need to “have their moment” during the Paralympics.
“They’ve been working so hard for this,” she said.
With a report from CTV News’ Katie Simpson