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 Tsimanouskaya would end up with both Poland and the Czech Republic publicly offering her assistance.
“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,” 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.
“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.”
A member of the local Belarusian community, who had been in contact with the athlete throughout the night, said that after long talks with various officials she had petitioned for asylum in Japan.
Both Poland and the Czech Republic offered their help on Monday.
Czech foreign minister Jakub Kulhanek said he considered the situation around the Belarusian “scandalous.”
“The Czech Republic is ready to help,” he tweeted. “We are offering her a visa to enter the territory so that she can apply for international protection with us. Our embassy in Tokyo is also ready to help.”