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Volume 6 No. 212
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IOC Presidential Candidate Sergei Bubka Says Olympic Boycotts Futile, Sports Key To Progress

Despite already being one of the world's "most successful athletes" and having broken world records in pole vaulting, SERGEI BUBKA "is ready to face new challenges," according to Ivan Nechepurenko of the MOSCOW TIMES. In September, Bubka, 49, hopes to become "the youngest candidate to succeed Jacques Rogge" as president of the IOC. He is now in Moscow as deputy president of the Int'l Athletics Federations and head of the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine.

Q: Sports are also often used as a tool of political pressure. For instance, there have been calls to boycott the Sochi Olympics to protest the anti-gay propaganda law that was recently adopted in Russia.
Sergei Bubka: Well, I am against boycotts, and as far as I know, the U.S. Olympic Committee was opposed to this call. The problem is that if you boycott an event, you only create more problems. Olympic Games are always a chance to foster better understanding between nations. I think that today a boycott would be absurd, especially from my standpoint, since I fell victim to the Soviet boycott of the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

Q: As one of the candidates in the upcoming elections of the IOC's President [in September 2013], how would you treat this situation? Would you respond to these calls?
Bubka: Of course, we need to respond. We need to show what boycotts can lead to. If you won't communicate, engage in dialogue and seek consensus, you will never achieve progress. Whenever you have an interesting topic, you will always have people who will try to pursue their own interest and solve their own issues.

Q: But do you think athletes should speak up on int'l issues?
Bubka: No, the Olympic Charter states clearly that Olympic games are not political.

Q: Even for such high-ranking sports officials as yourself? Do you feel obliged to speak up on the issue of gay rights, for instance?
Bubka: Well, it's not a problem today. People can go around the world and speak up on issues. As for me, I haven't seen any precedents of things happening [with gay people].

Q: Why do you think people in the West and the Western press have a different opinion?
Bubka: It's politics, [different countries have] different interests and the authorities here understand that very well (MOSCOW TIMES, 8/8).