Friend and Foe Emerge as Ukraine's Olympic Bid Sparks Intrigue

A month after a campaign for Lviv to host the Olympic Games in 2022 was put on hold amidst the deteriorating situation in Ukraine due to the Russian incursion – attention to the bid is on the rise.

When the bid committee released a statement in April explaining that its marketing efforts would be put on hold at least until after the outcome of the May 25th Presidential election, it seemed likely that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) would politely decline Lviv’s application when the body’s Executive Board chooses a short list from among five applicants July 8th and 9th at a meeting in Lausanne. But the IOC’s intentions took on a new hue Wednesday when President Thomas Bach announced that a fund would be set up to benefit athletes in Ukraine.

“To help the Ukrainian athletes – wherever they come from in Ukraine and whatever their background – and to mitigate their difficult situation, the IOC has established an emergency fund of USD 300,000,” Bach stated.

This unprecedented gesture under Bach’s innovative leadership demonstrates the IOC’s interest in supporting and developing sport despite any political implications. Coming just days after a teleconference with the Lviv 2022 bid leadership – part of the overall bid process – creating the fund could be seen as a reaction to Ukraine’s ardent efforts to continue to build sport despite day-to-day political distractions.

If the IOC is on the same page, perhaps it’s too soon to write off Lviv 2022.

Others have taken notice of Lviv’s tenacity too – earlier Wednesday an anonymous foe struck a blow aimed at discrediting the Ukraine team.

A mass email was sent to GamesBids.com and several international Olympic journalists with a “media release” attached explaining that Sergey Gontcharov, the head of the Lviv bid, had been fired.

It wasn’t difficult to reject the authenticity of the poorly written and amateurishly presented release and Gontcharov denied that he had been removed from the bid as soon as the apparent hoax came to his attention.

“Sergey Gontcharov, head of Lviv’s bid for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Games who is a citizen of Russian Federation was fired to avoid speculations on Ukrainian and Russian relations,” the release read in part.

“The dismissal happened before a videoconference between the Applicant city and the International Olympic Committee, which was held in Lviv on the 8th of May, 2014.”

Contrary to the fake email, Gontcharov was involved in the videoconference and remains on the Lviv team.

Despite being sent from a Google gmail account that was intended to mislead a connection with the bid, the culprit may have inadvertently left his personal calling card. Embedded but hidden in the document was the author’s name “Valeriy”.

Lviv is bidding against Almaty Kazakhstan, Beijing, Krakow and Oslo.

Krakow faces a May 25th referendum and Oslo is challenged to win the financial support of the Parliament.

With the IOC’s desire to frequently stage the Winter Games in central Europe, Lviv might still have a fighting chance to survive the July shortlisting exercise.