Inside Lines: Sergei Bubka’s appeal for peace sits uneasily with his Russian ties

 

The former world heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko is not the only sporting giant to become embroiled in the escalating political struggle in his native Ukraine.

At the height of the street fighting in Kiev, Sergei Bubka, the pole-vault icon who heads Ukraine’s National Olympic Committee, urged both sides to lay down their weapons and halt the violence that was bringing the country to “the brink of catastrophe”. He said: “I pray and I appeal to both parties: stop violence, try to find the peace, keep us together to live in peace.” However, the Olympic gold medallist, who for four years was a member of the Ukrainian parliament, finds himself in an invidious situation.

Unlike Klitschko, he has been a supporter of the deposed president, Viktor Yanukovych, and has favoured strengthening ties with Russia, which is not a popular view in the current climate in Kiev. He and Klitschko, though both national idols and products of the same Soviet sporting system, are not close because of their political differences. Bubka, 50, recently made an unsuccessful bid for the presidency of the International Olympic Committee, whereas the 42-year-old “Dr Ironfist” has even loftier ambitions. He quit boxing to become a leader of Ukraine’s protest movement, and as a member of the interim government is to run for the country’s presidency in the May elections. Intriguingly, Vladimir Putin has wheeled out one of Russia’s own heavy hitters in an attempt to counterpunch Klitschko’s popularity. Nicolai Valuev, aka “The Beast from the East”, at 7ft an even more imposing figure than the 6ft 7in Klitschko, has been seen strolling around the city centre in Sevastapol, capital of Ukraine’s pro-Russian stronghold in Crimea. Valuev (below), who lost the WBA version of the world title to Britain’s David Haye, was joined by fellow Russian parliamentarian Irina Rodina, the former Olympic figure skater. Ironically, the last of Klitschko’s 45 fights was in Moscow, where he was applauded by Putin, a ringside spectator. Now the Russians themselves are in the opposite corner.

Sky in control

The gloves are also off at Sky, where the satellite scrap with the new kids on the box, BT, is becoming something of an uncivil war, with football as the battleground. Sky reckon BT jumped the gun when declaring that Sky’s Premier League coverage during the second half of the current season would be “incredibly weak” because of their “aggressive front-end loading” picks of plum matches. BT also boasted that it would be “the only place to watch the current top four teams in May”. However, a jubilant Sky now reveal a record-breaking April list in which 16 of the 17 live games they show will involve teams in the current top six. Altogether in March they will screen 16 matches to BT’s four, 17 to their three in April and at least seven to their one in May, thus ensuring the Championship decider will almost certainly be live on Sky yet again. As BT used to say, it is good to talk. But maybe not too soon, eh?

Pascoe’s final hurdle

Lord Coe was among those leading tributes to former fellow athlete Alan Pascoe, a pioneer of British sports marketing, who retired as president of London-based conglomerate CSM last week. Pascoe, 66, he said, is “deservedly recognised and revered as a trailblazer in the business of sports marketing, which he virtually invented in the UK”. Indeed, the former Olympic hurdling silver medallist is a most successful entrepreneur. Yet back in the Seventies the man whose astute sponsorship brokering has made him a multimillionaire was the Bob Crow of athletics, leading a rebellion for vital reform of the sport at the shop-floor level. I doubt he’ll be idle for long.

a.hubbard@independent.co.uk

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test