Dutch cycling association advising athletes against travel to Belarus
Dutch cycling association KNWU has advised its athletes not to travel to Belarus for the European Championship at the end of next month. In addition to health risks, the country seems to be heading for a political crisis which poses a great risk, organization’s chair Thorwald Veneberg said in the radio show Langs de Lijn En Omreken.
"For us, the importance of sport matters. But it should not be an expedition, especially if there are all kinds of consequences that we cannot foresee. Then you should not take the risk," said Veneberg.
Belarusian authorities ordered a Ryanair flight en route from Greece to Lithuania to land under the guise of a bomb threat on Sunday. It then used the opportunity to arrest an opposition journalist and his partner, causing outrage in Western countries.
The European Union has agreed to impose a fresh round of sanctions on Belarus after what was described as an "attack on European sovereignty". The leaders of the EU's 27 member states ordered EU-based airlines not to fly over Belarus and pledged more economic sanctions at a meeting in Brussels on Monday evening.
"We are really heading for a major political crisis. I wouldn't want to go there anyway, but there are athletes who say: there are so few competitions, I still have to prepare for the Olympics. My advice is not to do that," he said.
The KNWU said it will consult with the Dutch sports umbrella organization NOC * NSF, also the country’s Olympic committee, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday. A more definitive decision will likely be made after those talks.
"Before today there was a good chance that we would go, but I assume that the advice will be adjusted," said Veneberg.
The European Championship in track cycling is set to take place in the Belarus capital of Minsk from June 23 to June 27.