Ukrainian athletes get sendoff to London Olympics

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July 23, 2012, 5:26 p.m. | Photo — by Ganna Bernyk
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© Ganna Bernyk

Ganna Bernyk

Several hundred Ukrainians on July 21 braved chilly, rainy weather to wish good luck to their Olympic athletes in the London Games.

Those who came to Kyiv’s Independence Square were treated to Olympics’ trivia quizzes and sports contests.

The Olympic flame relay through Kyiv was shortened to a torch-passing handoff that ended in the hands of Serhiy Bubka, president of the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine and a former gold medal winner. He lit the cauldron, symbolizing the nation's hopes for memorable victories in the coming XXX Olympiad starting July 27.

A parade headed by Bubka, the legendary pole vaulter, marched down Khreshchatyk Street, ending at Independence Square. Male athletes wore traditional Ukrainian papakhas (tall astrakhan hats) that were not part of their ‘70s-style official outfits. Together with the bell-bottomed trousers, pointed-collar shirts and single-breasted jackets, the ancient headgear looked particularly eccentric.

Prime Minister Mykola Azarov came to bid the national team farewell. While trying to read a letter from President Viktor Yanukovych in his typical, broken Ukrainian, Azarov was met with a burst of indignation and whistling. Azarov described the Olympics as the moment when athletes bring glory to themselves and the nation.

“It will be great test for you, a once-in-a-lifetime chance,” Azarov is quoted as saying by the Cabinet of Ministers’ website. „We're all together, we are concerned with your well-being and we are your fans. You can feel this. Let our support inspire you.”

The prime minister is expected to head Ukraine's official delegation to London.

At the last Olympics in Beijing, Ukraine won 27 medals, ranking 11th among all competing countries. This year’s team of 245 athletes will participate in 28 events

Denis Rafalsky


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