Sun Sentinel Palm Beach Edition
Olympics chief insists games don’t do wrong by including Russians
COURCHEVEL, France — Insisting sports had to respect the human rights of all athletes, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach on Sunday denied that the organization was on the wrong side of history by helping Russians and Belarusians qualify for the 2024 Paris Summer Games.
Bach and the IOC have faced a widespread backlash from Ukraine and its allies, including comments directed at him by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, since setting out a path last month for some athletes from Russia and Belarus to return to international competition despite the war waged by their countries.
Asked Sunday at the Alpine skiing world championships if the IOC could be on the wrong side of history, Bach dismissed the suggestion.
“No, history will show who is doing more for peace. The ones who try to keep lines open, to communicate, or the ones who want to isolate or divide,” the IOC leader said.
“We have shown this in the past with great success in the Olympic movement,” Bach said, pointing to the examples of North and South Korea, Israel and Palestine, and Kosovo. “Our role is bringing people together.”
Bach spoke with international media ahead of the men’s downhill, the marquee race in a sport from which Russians and Belarusians were excluded since the war started last February. Ivan Kovbasnyuk was the only Ukrainian skier taking part.
Kovbasnyuk told The Associated Press earlier at the championships that no Russians should be allowed at Paris, echoing comments by Ukrainian Olympic medalists including boxer Wladimir Klitschko, high jumper Yaroslava Mahuchikh and tennis player Elina Svitolina.
“Russia is killing my people. Not good situation for Olympic Committee,” Kovbasnyuk said in Courchevel.
Bach spoke Sunday of his support for “every Ukrainian athlete. We can from a human point of view understand their reactions, we share their suffering.”
“Every Ukrainian athlete can be rest assured that we are standing in full solidarity with them and that all their comments are taken very, very seriously into consideration,” he said.
Pope concerned: Pope Francis on Sunday expressed sadness and worry at the news that Bishop Rolando Alvarez, an outspoken critic of the Nicaraguan government, had been sentenced to 26 years in prison in the latest move against the Catholic Church and government opponents.
Hours later in Nicaragua’s capital, Cardenal Leopoldo Brenes said someone had asked him what they could do for Alvarez.
“Pray, that is our strength,” Brenes told those gathered inside the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. “Pray that the Lord gives him strength, gives him judgment in all of his actions.”
Alvarez was sentenced Friday, after refusing to get on a flight to the United States with 222 other prisoners, all opponents of President Daniel Ortega. In addition to his prison term, Alvarez was stripped of his Nicaraguan citizenship.
“The news that arrived from Nicaragua has saddened me no little,’’ the pontiff told the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the traditional Sunday blessing, expressing both his love and concern for Álvarez.
Iran-China meeting: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi will meet with his counterpart Xi Jinping during his three-day trip in China starting Tuesday, as the two U.S. rivals seek further cooperation.
China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying made the announcement Sunday, saying Raisi’s visit was at Xi’s invitation.
Raisi will meet with Xi and their delegations will sign cooperation documents, according to Iran’s state news agency IRNA. Meeting with Iranian and Chinese business leaders and Iranian expatriates in China is also part of his itinerary, the report added.
Raisi’s visit is expected to deepen ties between the two political and economic partners that are opposed to the U.S.-led Western domination of international affairs.
Israel politics: Israel’s president on Sunday appealed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to delay a contentious plan to overhaul the country’s judicial system and instead seek a compromise with his political opponents.
President Isaac Herzog issued the appeal in a primetime nationwide address a day before Netanyahu’s coalition is to take its first steps toward implementing the plan in parliament.
The proposed reforms have triggered mass demonstrations and opposition from wide swaths of Israeli society. Even President Joe Biden has offered veiled criticism, saying Sunday that Israel’s democracy is built on consensus and an independent judiciary.
“I feel, we all feel, that we are in a moment before a collision, even a violent collision, a barrel of explosives before a blast,” Herzog said.
Herzog’s job is largely ceremonial. But the president is meant to serve as a moral compass and unifying force, and his words can carry great weight in a deeply divided country.
There was no immediate response from Netanyahu.
Debate on Haiti: Top Caribbean leaders are expected to debate Haiti’s spiraling chaos and its impact on the region during a biannual meeting this week, with some complaining bitterly about a constant stream of migrants arriving on their shores as they flee poverty and worsening violence.
The three-day meeting of the Caribbean trade block known as Caricom starts Wednesday in the Bahamas.
Some of the group’s 15 members are pushing to get key Haitian stakeholders to a neutral nation in the region to reach a consensus agreement on holding elections in the impoverished country that has been stripped of all democratically elected institutions.
However, the international community and local officials have noted that elections cannot be held in Haiti until violence is quelled.
Pa. factory fined: Federal workplace safety authorities have fined a central Pennsylvania confectionary factory more than $14,500 following an accident last year in which two workers fell into a vat of chocolate.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration cited Mars Wrigley in the June accident at the Elizabethtown M&M/Mars factory, saying the workers were not authorized to work in the tanks and weren’t trained on the proper safety procedures for the equipment.
Officials said two workers employed by an outside contracting firm fell into the partially filled chocolate tank while doing maintenance work.
Both were taken to hospitals, one by helicopter.