Utah welcomes Ukrainian Olympic athletes in humanitarian outreach effort
The world has witnessed for months a humanitarian crisis that is impacting millions of Ukrainian citizens. Among them are many of Ukraine’s Olympic and Paralympic athletes, left without access to safe living and training conditions.
For Olympic and Paralympic athletes around the world, it’s been especially emotional to see the upheaval their friends and competitors have had to endure.
In honoring the spirit and ideals of Olympism and Paralympism, the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation is proud to announce that Utah is welcoming approximately 50 displaced Ukrainian athletes, coaches and family members beginning in May in an all-encompassing humanitarian and sporting initiative to provide a safe haven and training opportunities amid unrest and turmoil in their home country.
“Utah has long been a home for international athletes and we feel it is our duty to step up and support Ukraine’s winter sports teams,” Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation CEO Colin Hilton said. “We have amazing resources and a caring and hospitable community that knows that when there is a need, we do something about it. Our Legacy Foundation looks forward to coordinating services for these young athletes, coaches, and family members from Ukraine.”
As a leader in both Olympic and Paralympic sport, and championing the resettlement of refugees from around the world, Utah is uniquely qualified to provide world-class training and stability to these athletes, coaches and family members.
Athletes from over 30 countries train or compete in the state each year, and – according to a 2021 Utah WorkForce Refugee Services report – an estimated 65,000 refugees, former refugees and their children live in Utah.
“Utah has a long and proud legacy of welcoming refugees to our state,” Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said. “This is an incredible opportunity to support our Ukrainian friends in pursuing their goals in sport and life.”
Every aspect of the group’s needs will be fully covered in a community-wide partnership effort organized through the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation and the Community Foundation of Utah. Outreach efforts to the Ukrainian group are coordinated directly through Olympic champion Sergey Bubka, a four-time Olympian who serves as president of the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine.
Athletes who compete in the sports of curling and freestyle skiing will travel to Utah. Ten curling athletes are now training at the Utah Olympic Oval and Weber County Ice Rink and living in University of Utah housing. A second group of 39 freestyle skiing athletes, coaches and family members is scheduled to arrive in June, with housing and training hosted at Utah Olympic Park, and additional training resources available at U.S. Ski & Snowboard’s USANA Center of Excellence.
Ukrainian athletes have recently competed in Utah in aerials, Nordic combined and short track speed skating competitions held in Park City and Salt Lake City, respectively.