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Birmingham Bans Russian Athletes; ‘Proudly’ Stands With Ukraine

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin addresses the Metro Birmingham Kiwanis Club on Tuesday.

By Ryan Michaels

The Birmingham Times

Mayor Randall Woodfin on Tuesday told the Metro Birmingham Kiwanis Club that the city “made its name by standing tall in the face of injustices, by daring to battle against the persecution of innocent people” and will proudly stand with the people of Ukraine.

Woodfin and The World Games 2022 CEO Nick Sellers spoke to Kiwanis one day after TWG2022 and the Birmingham Organizing Committee voted to prohibit Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from the July 7-17 World Games in Birmingham.

“None of us, not the World Games Birmingham Organizing Committee, not the people of Birmingham, take any joy in this decision to ban innocent athletes who have worked tirelessly to compete in these games; however, to allow those athletes to compete would be to ignore [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s unacceptable aggression against innocent people,” Woodfin said.

After Putin invaded Ukraine last week, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Monday recommended that international sports federations disallow Russian and Belarusian athletes from participating in international competitions. Later that day, Birmingham voted to ban athletes from the two eastern European countries.

Sellers said the ban would show “resolve as a global unity for peace . . . action to stand with the Ukrainian citizens and stand with the rest of the free world in opposing [Putin’s] vicious activity in invading Ukraine and killing innocent lives.”

He added that Russian athletes may have worked hard for the Games, “but so did the Ukrainian athletes, many of whom are going to have to stay behind to fight for their family and their own lives,” he said.

Woodfin said he has been impressed by the strength of the Ukranians.

“Their courage and patriotismI hope you’ve been moved by it as much as I have, so I want to be clear when I say that the city of Birmingham, as a city and a community, that we collectively and proudly stand with the people of Ukraine during this time of distress,” the mayor said.

“We’re also going to show the world where we are in 2022,” he said, “but we cannot turn our backs on the Ukrainian athletes who may be forced to fight for their lives, instead of having their moment to compete as well, so we hope to have them here,” Woodfin said. “Our hearts, our thoughts, are not only with them, but it’s with their families, as well as all the Ukrainian citizens at this time.”

It is not yet known how many, if any, of the more than 50 Ukrainian athletes will participate in the games.