His eyes welling with tears and voice choking with emotion, Ukrainian pole vault great Sergei Bubka appealed Wednesday to both sides in his homeland’s political crisis to halt the violence that has claimed dozens of lives and brought the country ‘‘to the brink of catastrophe.’’
Bubka, who heads Ukraine’s national Olympic committee, issued his call after clashes between riot police and anti-government protesters in Kiev on Tuesday left at least 25 dead and hundreds injured in the worst violence in its post-Soviet history.
Bubka said he was ‘‘shocked’’ by the bloodshed and offered to do ‘‘everything I can’’ to help bring calm and political dialogue.
‘‘I pray and I appeal to both parties: stop violence, try to find the peace, keep us together to live in peace,’’ he said.
Bubka said none of his athletes had asked to return to Ukraine or were under political pressure to leave Sochi.
‘‘Our athletes said they would like to compete in Olympic Games,’’ he said. ‘‘They would like to bring glory to the nation and they would like to raise the flag of the nation.’’
Bubka said Ukrainian athletes wanted to wear black armbands to honor those killed, but the request was turned down by the IOC, citing the Olympic Charter.
Punk rockers beaten
Cossack militia attacked the Pussy Riot punk group with horsewhips as the artists — who have feuded with Vladmir Putin’s government for years — tried to perform under a sign advertising the Sochi Olympics.
Six group members — five women and one man — donned their signature ski masks and were pulling out a guitar and microphone as at least 10 Cossacks and other security officials moved in. One Cossack appeared to use pepper spray. Another whipped several group members while other Cossacks ripped off their masks and threw the guitar in a garbage can.
Police arrived and questioned witnesses, but no one was arrested.
The Cossacks violently pulled masks from women’s heads, beating group member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova with a whip as she lay on the ground.
The incident lasted less than three minutes and one Pussy Riot member, a man wearing a bright yellow tank top, was left with blood on his face, saying he had been pushed to the ground.
US bobsled ‘corrupt’
A US bobsledder who was not chosen for the Sochi Games calls the selection process ‘‘corrupt’’ and questions why Lolo Jones received a spot on the women’s Olympic roster.
Chuck Berkeley, who made the 2010 Vancouver Games team and was on the World Cup roster this season, said the teams for Sochi were chosen based largely on an athlete’s popularity. He added that some sliders were favored over others with better credentials and that the USA-3 women’s sled Jones is pushing at the Olympics would fare better with someone else in her spot.
‘‘I get that people want to latch on to a media sensation and run wild,’’ Berkeley said, referring to Jones. ‘‘But it comes down to this: There are athletes who deserve to be there who are not there, on the women’s and the men’s sides. And you have to ask yourself why is that the case.
“What is wrong with the selection process? Why is it flawed? Why is it corrupt?’’
NBC has built a formidable team of former ice champions to talk about current ones in Sochi, but left one back in the United States to try something new. Sarah Hughes, the 2002 figure skating gold medalist, co-hosts a daily television-style show online and chats with fans via social media when NBC is showing prime-time skating. Hughes does her ‘‘Olympic Ice’’ show with co-host Russ Thaler from the NBC Sports Group facility in Connecticut . . . The International Ski Federation rejected a protest by Germany over the results of the Olympic men’s cross-country team sprint, which Finland won after the German anchor fell shortly before the finish. The German team handed in an official protest shortly after the race, arguing that Finnish anchor Sami Jauhojaervi impeded Tim Tscharnke and caused him to fall. However, a FIS jury upheld the result after a brief deliberation. Tscharnke also tripped up Russia’s Nikita Kriukov, who stayed on his feet but couldn’t catch Jauhojaervi and took silver. Germany ended up seventh, with Sweden taking bronze.