The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), which has been involved in the evacuation and housing of cyclists from Ukraine and Afghanistan, yesterday welcomed a delegation from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), including its President Thomas Bach, to the UCI World Cycling Centre (WCC) in Aigle, Switzerland, to meet with the athletes from these two countries.

After a formal welcome from UCI President and IOC member David Lappartient, the visiting IOC delegation watched the Ukraine’s BMX Racing, mountain bike and track athletes in training on the centre’s BMX track, pump track and velodrome. They then had a chance to meet and talk to the 32 Ukrainian athletes and coaches as well as 23 Afghans, all from the road discipline.

As a reminder, the UCI WCC, an education and training centre that also houses the UCI headquarters, has been hosting members of the cycling family from Afghanistan since a major evacuation exercise carried out in the second half of last year after the invasion of Kabul by the Taliban. The President of the Afghanistan Cycling Federation, Mr Fazli Ahmad Fazli, was present at yesterday’s meeting with the IOC alongside the athletes from his country and local politician Mr Philippe Leuba, Head of the Department of the Economy, Innovation and Sport of the Canton of Vaud, who was also very implicated in the evacuation process.

Since the outbreak of war in Ukraine in February this year, the UCI has also been working closely with Ukraine’s National Olympic Committee President and IOC member Sergii Bubka, and the Union Européenne de Cyclisme (UEC), presided by Enrico Della Casa. Together they have been assisting Ukrainian riders arriving in Switzerland, most of whom are being hosted by the National Federation, Swiss Cycling. Ukraine’s Minister of Youth and Sports Vadym Guttsait joined Messrs Bubka and Della Casa at the UCI WCC yesterday along with the Secretary General of the Ukraine Cycling Federation (FCU) Ms Tatyana Diazdevych, who is providing support and assistance to athletes across Europe.

UCI President David Lappartient said: “The UCI and our World Cycling Centre are committed to the wellbeing of the entire cycling family. With the current crises in Afghanistan and Ukraine, it was obvious to us that we should put our accommodation and training facilities at the disposition of athletes who were in danger in their own countries.

“The entire Olympic Movement is doing its utmost to help all athletes in these troubled times, and it was a pleasure and honour to welcome representatives of the International Olympic Committee and the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine to Aigle. It is important that these young cyclists feel supported, and I am sure that the discussions and activities that took place here in Aigle will reinforce their feeling of security.”

IOC President Thomas Bach added: “It was particularly touching to see that Ukrainian and Afghan athletes are both benefiting from the solidarity of the Olympic Movement. This reflects the true Olympic spirit. We will continue supporting Ukrainian and Afghan athletes in the same way as we support other members of the global Olympic Community who are affected by war and aggression.”