The Italian sporting world rallies around Ukraine and its athletes. Since the start of the Russian invasion, CONI and the National Sports Federations have come out to help and support Ukrainian athletes, opening their federal centres and the Acqua Acetosa Olympic Preparation Centre to them. And it was precisely at the 'Giulio Onesti' that the world sports legend, IOC member and President of the Ukrainian National Olympic Committee, Sergej Bubka, and the Ukrainian Minister of Youth and Sports, Vadym Guttsait, Olympic fencing champion in Barcelona 1992 in the team sabre event, paid a visit.
They were welcomed by the CONI President and IOC member, Giovanni Malagò, the Undersecretary to the Prime Minister's Office with responsibility for Sport, Valentina Vezzali, the CONI Secretary General, Carlo Mornati, with honorary IOC members Franco Carraro, Mario Pescante and Manuela Di Centa, and the Federal Presidents Giuseppe Abbagnale (rowing), Paolo Azzi (fencing) and Angelo Cito (taekwondo).
Today's visit follows the Italy-Ukraine sports-institutional meeting that took place yesterday at the Foro Italico and was intended to underline the bond between the two countries and thank the Italian sports movement that, through the involvement of 20 National Sports Federations (here is the complete list), allows Italy to be the first country in the world for the number of Ukrainian athletes hosted.
'Here, you will always find what you need, and we are happy that this is happening,' President Malagò told the rowing, taekwondo and fencing athletes. Always consider the Olympic preparation centre as your second home, although we don't want it to be forever as we know how much you want to return to your country. President Bubka said some words to me that will remain in my mind for the rest of my life. It is impossible to predict the future. I hope the war will end soon. I am certainly very proud that Italy is the first country in the world to support the activities of Ukrainian athletes. In this meeting, we did not discuss the past or the present, but the future'.
'Sport is also solidarity, and its values speak a universal language, capable of overcoming all differences. We are here to remember in the best possible way how strong our desire to help Ukraine is,' he added. CONI and twenty federations are engaged in this important project to support athletes. I am truly honoured to be the President of the National Olympic Committee at this time because this is more important than any victory than any gold medal. We interpret the concept of Olympic solidarity in the best possible way'.
A commitment supported by the Italian Government. 'Last night, I spoke with Prime Minister Mario Draghi,' Malagò revealed, 'he too was proud and honoured by what Italy and the world of sport are doing for Ukraine. And representing the Government was Undersecretary Vezzali. 'Sport is also solidarity,' said the fencing Olympian. It is a source of pride to be able to say that the Department of Sport has published a notice to allocate EUR 1.5 million to support sports bodies engaged in this humanitarian emergency. We are offering athletes the opportunity to continue training and participate in the next big events: sport is doing its part. It is showing how inclusive it can be.'
In his speech, Bubka did not hold back his emotion. 'I cannot explain how difficult it is to talk. My heart is broken,' began the pole vault champion, who runs the IOC task force set up to help Ukrainian athletes. I am doing everything I can to bring peace and save my people. Without Italy, we would have no future. I have never in my life encountered such solidarity. My gratitude goes out to the Italian people. We are here because the world of sports is united and united, and we want to express our gratitude to our Italian friends and people, not only to the family of sports, because Italy is next to Ukraine. Without your support, we could not win.'
'These are difficult times for our country,' added Ukraine's Minister of Youth and Sports, Vadym Guttsait, 'In these moments, we can understand who is close to our friends and us. And I want to say a big thank you to Italy, the Government, to CONI, and to all the federal presidents helping us.' Italy and Ukraine together, also thanks to sport. (Photo Mezzelani GMT Sport)