Sergey Bubka has been summoned to Switzerland to lead the Olympic movement's humanitarian response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The pole vault legend, now 58, is president of the Ukrainian National Olympic Committee and considered the best-placed figure to spearhead efforts to help those in need.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is based in the Swiss city of Lausanne, and it is there that plans will be drawn up to support Ukrainian athletes and sport bodies affected directly by the Russian invasion.

IOC president Thomas Bach said in a letter to the Olympic movement that there had been an overwhelming "outpouring of solidarity" from stakeholders towards Ukraine, with efforts already under way to help exiled athletes.

The IOC has created a solidarity fund, and Bach said it was necessary "to increase the assistance already provided, but also ensure that it is coordinated in an effective manner".

This is where Bubka comes in, with Bach "urgently" requesting that the long-time former world record holder and IOC member makes himself available "to coordinate all elements of humanitarian assistance to the Ukrainian Olympic community", including the allocation and distribution of funds raised.

Bach added: "To facilitate this task we will begin collecting information on the whereabouts of these members of the Ukrainian Olympic community as well as ongoing initiatives and support."

According to Ukraine's National Olympic Committee, in a statement issued this week, Bubka stayed in Ukraine after the Russian attack began.

He issued a statement on Tuesday that read: "Thank you for all your supportive messages and calls we received from around the world. Ukraine is grateful to the IOC for its full solidarity as well as to its task force for its communications with the NOC of Ukraine for coordination of humanitarian assistance. The war must stop, peace and humanity must win."

Russia is planning to appeal against the International Paralympic Committee's (IPC) decision to ban the country's athletes from the Winter Paralympics in Beijing, according to Oleg Matytsin, the country's Minister of Sport.

The IPC confirmed the decision to bar both Russian and Belarusian Paralympians from the games on Thursday, reversing an earlier announcement that they would be able to participate as neutrals.

Russia's ban was announced just a day before the Beijing Games are scheduled to begin, after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had called for such a measure in the face of international pressure and boycott threats from athletes.

Matytsin, speaking to the state-owned news agency TASS, confirmed that Russia is now working on an emergency appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

"We are currently working to establish our legal position to file lawsuits on the protection of our athletes' rights, against the discrimination of athletes based on their ethnicity and the use of sports as a tool of a political pressure," he said.

"Today's decision of the International Paralympic Committee to bar our team is a blatant violation of athletes' rights and a manipulation of the Olympic Charter and human lives' values in pursuit of political goals.

"It is extremely inadmissible to put in action any type of sanctions with regard to [Russia's] Paralympians, who have already arrived for the tournament.

"We are drafting a lawsuit to be considered before the Opening Ceremony and the actual start [of the 2022 Winter Paralympic Games]."

The IPC's decision came one week after Russia invaded Ukraine and means that a 71-strong team of Russian Paralympians will be forced to sit out the Games, barring the success of an appeal.

Ukraine, meanwhile, will have 29 representatives in Beijing, while Russian athletes or teams have also been hit with bans by bodies such as the World Athletics Council, FIFA and UEFA, as the international sporting community attempts to apply pressure to the nation.

Athletes from Russia and Belarus have been banned from the 2022 Winter Olympics following a U-turn by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).

The IPC announced on Wednesday that the two nations were set to compete in Beijing, albeit under the Paralympic flag and without being included in the medal table.

That was despite the International Olympic Committee (IOC) calling for athletes from Russia and Belarus to be prevented from taking part in all international sporting competitions.

However, just a day before the Games are due to begin, the IPC has reversed its decision amid fierce backlash and threats of boycotts.

It means 83 athletes will now no longer be able to compete in the nine-day event, including a 71-strong team from Russia.

IPC president Andrew Parsons said in a statement on Thursday: "At the IPC we are very firm believers that sport and politics should not mix. However, by no fault of its own the war has now come to these Games and behind the scenes many governments are having an influence on our cherished event.

"The IPC is a membership-based organisation, and we are receptive to the views of our member organisations. When our members elected the board in December 2021 it was to maintain and uphold the principles, values, and rules of the Paralympic Movement.  

"As board members that is a responsibility and duty we take extremely seriously. In taking our decision yesterday we were looking at the long-term health and survival of the Paralympic Movement.  

"We are fiercely proud of the principles and values that have made the Movement what it is today. However, what is clear is that the rapidly escalating situation has now put us in a unique and impossible position so close to the start of the Games."

The new announcement comes a week on from Russia invading Ukraine, with neighbouring Belarus effectively used as a staging post for part of the advance.

A joint statement from Ukrainian athletes and the Global Athlete group condemned the IPC's original ruling on Wednesday, accusing the governing body of issuing "another blow" to every Ukrainian athlete and citizen.

Parsons explained that the situation in the athletes' village had become "untenable", leading to the surprise U-turn on the eve of the event.

"Yesterday we said we would continue to listen, and that is what we are doing," he said. "In the last 12 hours an overwhelming number of members have been in touch with us and been very open, for which I am grateful.  

"They have told us that if we do not reconsider our decision, it is now likely to have grave consequences for the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games. Multiple NPCs, some of which have been contacted by their governments, teams and athletes, are threatening not to compete.

"Ensuring the safety and security of athletes is of paramount importance to us and the situation in the athlete villages is escalating and has now become untenable. 

"In order to preserve the integrity of these Games and the safety of all participants, we have decided to refuse the athlete entries from RPC and NPC Belarus. 

"To the Para athletes from the impacted countries, we are very sorry that you are affected by the decisions your governments took last week in breaching the Olympic Truce. You are victims of your governments' actions. 

"Athlete welfare is and always will be a key concern for us. As a result of today's decision 83 Para athletes are directly impacted by this decision. However, if RPC and NPC Belarus remain here in Beijing then nations will likely withdraw. We will likely not have a viable Games. If this were to happen, the impact would be far wider reaching.

"I hope and pray that we can get back to a situation when the talk and focus is fully on the power of sport to transform the lives of persons with disabilities, and the best of humanity."

The World Athletics Council announced on Tuesday that athletes from Russia and Belarus will be excluded from all World Athletics Series events for the foreseeable future.

A number of other sporting federations, including FIFA and UEFA, have also banned teams and athletes from Belarus and Russia.

Russian and Belarusian athletes will be allowed to compete at the 2022 Winter Paralympics as neutrals, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has confirmed.

The IPC made the announcement on Wednesday, two days before the nine-day event is scheduled to officially begin in Beijing.

While competitors from Russia and Belarus have been cleared to take part in the global showpiece, they must compete under the Paralympic flag and will not be included in the medal table.

IPC president Andrew Parsons said in a statement: "The IPC and wider Paralympic Movement is greatly concerned by the gross violation of the Olympic Truce by the Russian and Belarusian governments in the days prior to the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games. 

"The IPC Governing Board is united in its condemnation of these actions and was in agreement that they cannot go unnoticed or unaddressed.

"In deciding what actions the IPC should take, it was fundamental that we worked within the framework of our new constitution to remain politically neutral and within the IPC Handbook, the rules and regulations that govern the Paralympic Movement. 

"Such neutrality is firmly anchored in the genuine belief that sport holds the transformative power to overcome our shortcomings and summon from within us the best of our humanity, especially in the darkest of moments.

"What we have decided upon is the harshest possible punishment we can hand down within our constitution and the current IPC rules."

The announcement comes six days on from Russian president Vladimir Putin ordering an invasion of Ukraine, with neighbouring Belarus effectively used as a staging post for Russian military.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) this week called for athletes and officials from Russia and Belarus to be prevented from taking part in all international sporting competitions.

In a statement issued on Monday, the IOC's executive board accused the governments of Russia and Belarus of a "breach of the Olympic Truce" following the attack on Ukraine.

Referencing that statement, Parsons declared further sanctions may follow, with the IPC confirming members will be invited to decide whether to suspend or terminate the membership of the two nations.

"Post-Beijing 2022, we will also take measures with our 206 member organisations to determine whether any breaches of the Olympic Truce for future Paralympic Games could lead to the possible suspension or termination of an NPC [National Paralympic Committee]," he said.

"It is deeply disappointing that such action is required. However, the IPC Governing Board believes it to be necessary in order to hold governments to account for actions that impact directly on the Paralympic Movement, the Paralympic Games and Paralympic athletes. 

"This is especially so given the origins of the Paralympic Movement, arising out of the horrific events of the Second World War.

"Now that this decision has been made, I expect all participating NPCs to treat the neutral athletes as they would any other athletes at these Games, no matter how difficult this may be. 

"Unlike their respective governments, these Paralympic athletes and officials are not the aggressors, they are here to compete in a sport event like everybody else.

"The eyes of the world will be watching the Paralympic Winter Games in the coming days.  It is vital we show to world leaders through our sport that we can unite as human beings and that our true power is found when promoting peace, understanding and inclusion. 

"This is at the core of what the Paralympic Movement does and what it stands for. We should not lose sight of this now, no matter what the circumstances."

The World Athletics Council announced on Tuesday that athletes from Russia and Belarus will be excluded from all World Athletics Series events for the foreseeable future.

A number of other sporting federations, including FIFA and UEFA, have also banned teams and athletes from the eastern European countries.

The National Paralympic Committee of Ukraine has confirmed that a 29-strong team will represent their country at the upcoming Winter Paralympics in Beijing, despite Russia's invasion of their homeland.

Russia launched an assault on Ukraine late last week, leading to a strong backlash from the international sporting community.

After the International Olympic Committee (IOC) condemned Russia's breach of the Olympic Truce, which remains in place until after the end of the Winter Paralympics, Ukrainian athletes penned an open letter to the IOC and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) to call for the suspension of Russian and Belarusian athletes ahead of the Winter Games, telling the governing bodies; "your legacy will be defined by your actions."

While the IPC is due to make a decision on Russian and Belarusian participation on Wednesday, Ukrainian Paralympians have moved to confirm that they are departing for the games from undisclosed locations, to compete in biathlon and cross-country skiing events.

"Part of the team is in one place, part is in another," a spokesperson told Public Sports.

"I hope that today we will unite and get to the airport and go to Beijing together. The team is not in Ukraine.

"We will not tell where we are. When we come to Beijing, we will tell. I hope that tomorrow, March 2, we will be in Beijing.

"The team is going [in] full as we planned."

Later that afternoon, a tweet from the official account of the Paralympic Games displayed the Ukrainian athletes prior to their departure for China. 

Athletes and officials from Russia and Belarus should be prevented from taking part in all international sporting competitions, the International Olympic Committee said.

In a statement issued on Monday, the IOC's executive board accused the governments of Russia and Belarus of a "breach of the Olympic Truce" following the attack on Ukraine.

Russian president Vladimir Putin ordered an invasion of Ukraine last Thursday, with neighbouring Belarus effectively used as a staging post for Russian military.

The IOC accepted athletes from both countries did not deserve to be punished simply for the actions of their governments. However, because the war in Ukraine prevents many Ukrainians from taking part in sporting events, the IOC said they were left with "a dilemma which cannot be solved".

It added: "The IOC EB has therefore today carefully considered the situation and, with a heavy heart, issued the following resolution:

"In order to protect the integrity of global sports competitions and for the safety of all the participants, the IOC EB recommends that International Sports Federations and sports event organisers not invite or allow the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials in international competitions.

"Wherever this is not possible on short notice for organisational or legal reasons, the IOC EB strongly urges International Sports Federations and organisers of sports events worldwide to do everything in their power to ensure that no athlete or sports official from Russia or Belarus be allowed to take part under the name of Russia or Belarus. Russian or Belarusian nationals, be it as individuals or teams, should be accepted only as neutral athletes or neutral teams. No national symbols, colours, flags or anthems should be displayed."

The IOC's announcement is expected to hasten a decision from FIFA over whether Russia will be allowed to compete in the World Cup play-offs in March.

Poland, Sweden and the Czech Republic all declared they would not play against Russia due to the Ukraine conflict, but world football's governing body initially chose only to ban the country's anthem and flag from matches and order them to play as the Football Union of Russia (RFU).

Russian tennis player Daniil Medvedev was confirmed as the new leader of the ATP world rankings on Monday, becoming the first man since Andy Roddick in 2004 to become world number one other than Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Andy Murray.

Ukrainian athletes have signed an open letter addressed to the International Olympic and Paralympic Committees calling for the immediate suspension of Russian and Belarusian athletes ahead of the Winter Paralympics.

After weeks of rising political tensions, Russia invaded neighbouring Ukraine on Thursday, with the conflict escalating further over the weekend.

Russia's actions have been widely condemned, and several leading athletes have demanded their entry into the 2022 Beijing Games be blocked.

A letter published by Global Athlete read: "We write to you today on behalf of Ukrainian Athletes to call on you in your leadership capacity of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and International Paralympic Committee (IPC) to immediately suspend the Russian and Belarusian National Olympic and Paralympic Committees.

"Any suspension must also include the banning of all athletes from international sport, including the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Games.

"Russia's invasion of Ukraine, supported by Belarus, is a clear breach of the Olympic and Paralympic Charters – a breach that must be met with strong sanctions.

"If the IOC and IPC refuse to take swift action, you are clearly emboldening [this] violation of international law and your own Charters.

"Your lack of action will send a message to every athlete and the world that you have chosen Russia and Belarus over athlete interests. Your legacy will be defined by your actions."

The IOC this week condemned Russia's breach of the Olympic Truce, which remains in place until a week after the end of the Paralympic Games.

The Paralympics will take place between March 4 and March 13.

Julian Nagelsmann has been left shocked by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, with the Bayern Munich boss admitting he was fearful of the consequences.

Russia, to widespread condemnation, invaded neighbouring Ukraine on Thursday. That conflict escalated on Friday, with fighting having reached the capital of Kyiv, which is Munich's twin city.

Bayern confirmed that their Allianz Arena stadium would be lit up in the yellow and blue of the Ukrainian flag on Friday evening, to show solidarity with Ukraine.

Bayern played against Dynamo Kyiv in the group stages of this season's Champions League, and Nagelsmann expressed his shock at seeing a city where he and his team visited now being in the middle of a war zone.

"How difficult is it to think about everyday life? Obviously it's difficult, I'm shocked," he told a news conference.

"I'm also to a certain extent fearful that this is happening in a country where only recently we jogged across the pitch, looked at the beautiful city [Kyiv] and now you see these terrible pictures from Ukraine.

"It's not easy to talk about football. Of course you think about your concerns with continuing to do your job well but if you look at the news it makes you think a lot about what's going on and what the consequences will be.

"First of all for the people in Ukraine, it's dramatic, it's shocking. Yesterday I read a very good phrase that said 'there's no way to peace, peace is the way'. I think that should be the motto again as quickly as possible."

Russian politicians, certain high-profile individuals and companies have been hit by sanctions from many countries in response to the invasion.

In sport, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has urged federations planning to host events in Russia and Belarus, who have supported the invasion, to be relocated or cancelled.

Manchester United have ended their sponsorship deal with Russian airline Aeroflot, Formula One has removed the Russian Grand Prix from its calendar and UEFA has moved this season's Champions League final from St Petersburg to Paris.

Nagelsmann fully backed UEFA's decision.

"Firstly it's good that UEFA decided quickly and decided the right way," he said. "It's always good to have a quick decision and a good sign."

Bundesliga leaders Bayern face Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.

The International Olympic Committee has called on international sporting federations to relocate or cancel any events set to take place in Russia or Belarus.

After weeks of rising political tensions, Russia invaded neighbouring Ukraine on Thursday, with the conflict escalating further on Friday.

Russia's invasion has been widely condemned by governments, world leaders and sporting bodies.

UEFA has moved this season's Champions League final from St Petersburg to Paris, while Formula One has removed the Russian Grand Prix from its race schedule for this year.

On Thursday, the IOC condemned Russia for breaking the Olympic Truce and on Friday, the governing body urged sporting federations around the world to reconsider the hosting of any events in Russia or neighbouring Belarus, which has helped facilitate the Ukraine invasion.

It has also called for the Belarusian and Russian flags and national anthems not to be displayed or played at any sporting events.

"The IOC EB [executive board] today urges all International sports federations to relocate or cancel their sports events currently planned in Russia or Belarus," a statement read.

"They should take the breach of the Olympic Truce by the Russian and Belarusian governments into account and give the safety and security of the athletes absolute priority. The IOC itself has no events planned in Russia or Belarus.

"In addition, the IOC EB urges that no Russian or Belarusian national flag be displayed and no Russian or Belarussian anthem be played in international sports events which are not already part of the respective World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) sanctions for Russia.

"At the same time, the IOC EB expresses its full support to the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) for the upcoming Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.

"The IOC EB expresses its deep concerns about the safety of the members of the Olympic Community in Ukraine and stands in full solidarity. It notes that the special IOC task force is in contact with the Olympic Community in the country to coordinate humanitarian assistance where possible."

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has strongly condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which breaches the Olympic Truce.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has launched military action into neighbouring Ukraine, prompting grave concerns from leaders and organisations around the world.

While the 2022 Winter Olympics ended at the end of last week, the Paralympic Games is set for next month, meaning the Olympic Truce remains in place.

"The IOC strongly condemns the breach of the Olympic Truce by the Russian government," an IOC statement read on Thursday.

"The respective UN resolution was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 2 December 2021 by consensus of all 193 UN Member States.

"The Olympic Truce began seven days before the start of the Olympic Games, on 4 February 2022, and ends seven days after the closing of the Paralympic Games."

It added: "Today, IOC President Thomas Bach reiterates his call for peace, which he expressed in his speeches at the Opening Ceremony and the Closing Ceremony of the Olympic Games."

Those speeches, the statement said, saw Bach call on political authorities to "give peace a chance" and said Olympic athletes had provided an "example of solidarity and peace".

"Following recent events, the IOC is deeply concerned about the safety of the Olympic Community in Ukraine," the IOC said.

"It has established a task force to closely monitor the situation and to coordinate humanitarian assistance to members of the Olympic Community in Ukraine where possible."

Anna Gasser believes the Kamila Valieva doping allegations should be attributed to "higher authorities", while she said she feels sorry for the teenage figure skater.

Valieva endured a controversial Winter Olympics after being allowed to compete despite a positive test for the banned substance trimetazidine coming to light.

The 15-year-old managed gold in the team event prior to the controversy and was favourite in the singles competition, but an error-strewn performance saw her finish fourth.

Valieva was visibly upset after missing out with her solo routine in Beijing, having come under scrutiny for much of the week on and off the ice.

Big Air gold medallist Gasser expressed her support for Valieva, who was able to continue her participation due to her age, while questioning those in power if the doping allegations are proved to be true.

"It hasn't affected me, but you still kind of suffer with her," Gasser told Stats Perform when asked about the situation.

"Doping in our sports is not that big of an issue because there's not really a lot to dope. But I was thinking, this girl is 15 years old. 

"She was one of the favourites and had pressure already and then there's doping accusations. From a humane perspective, I felt sorry for her. 

"Then she finished fourth as a big favourite. I think that both ice skating and figure skating are a tough sport. I think she has touched many people because you could see how hard the situation was for her. 

"Her coach's reactions were also kind of cold towards her. At 15 years old, I don't think you can actively do doping at that age. This must have been done by higher authorities if these allegations become reality."

Gasser is not the first to comment on the reaction from Valieva's coach Eteri Tutberidze, who reportedly asked her "why did you stop fighting?" in reference to an initial mistake on the teenager's opening triple axel, with International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach also suggesting Tutberidze's reaction was "chilling".

Valieva remains the subject of an anti-doping investigation and her entourage – including doctors, coaches and other adults surrounding her – are also being investigated.

Aside from the controversy surrounding Valieva, Gasser insisted that the competition to retain her Olympic crown was much tougher than four years ago.

"Well, I knew it would be very hard to defend this gold medal because the sport keeps on getting younger, there's a lot of pressure from the young ones," she added. 

"On the other hand, the young ones have pushed me to my limit and inspired me. I have developed because of them. And that was very beautiful because I think you can empower each other that way. 

"And I have to say that sports-wise, defending the gold medal this year was a bit harder and more challenging than the gold medal from four years ago. Back then, I had quite a gap over my competitors. This time, it was quite balanced."

Thomas Bach reiterated his wish for peace as the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) officially closed the Beijing Games.

In his welcoming speech earlier in February, Bach stated: "There will be no discrimination for any reason whatsoever. In our fragile world, where division, conflict and mistrust are on the rise, we show the world: yes, it is possible to be fierce rivals, while at the same time living peacefully and respectfully together.

"This is the mission of the Olympic Games: bringing us together in peaceful competition. Always building bridges, never erecting walls. Uniting humankind in all our diversity."

And with tensions between Russia and the west rising over the possibility of a Ukraine invasion, Bach believes the Beijing Games have been the perfect example of "solidarity and peace", as he called on world leaders to be inspired by the athletes.

"Each and every one of you strived to achieve your personal best. We were deeply touched how you were wishing and cheering for your competitors to achieve their best as well.

"You not only respected each other: you embraced each other, even if your countries are divided by conflict.

"You overcame these divisions, demonstrating that in this Olympic community we are all equal – regardless of what we look like, where we come from, or what we believe.

"This unifying power of the Olympic Games is stronger than the forces that want to divide us: you give peace a chance," he said.

Bach also emphasised the importance of the COVID-19 vaccination programme.

The pandemic, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has been ongoing for two years, and Bach stressed the crucial need for poorer nations to have equal access to the vaccines.

"If we want to finally overcome this pandemic, we must be faster," he said.

"We must aim higher, we must be stronger, we must stand together. Vaccination means caring for each other.

"In this Olympic spirit of solidarity, we call on the international community: give equal access to vaccines for everybody around the world."

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach says it was "chilling" to see the way Kamila Valieva was treated by her coach after falling in her figure skating routine.

Valieva was left visibly upset after making a number of errors as she missed out on a place on the podium in Thursday's singles event at the Winter Olympics.

The 15-year-old had been on course to win the title after Tuesday's short programme, having controversially been cleared to compete despite testing positive for trimetazidine in December.

However, the immense pressure Valieva has been under in Beijing appeared to have taken its toll as she could only finish fourth after a score of 141.83 for her final routine had her 224.09 overall at the Capital Indoor Stadium.

Anna Shcherbakova took gold with a combined score of 255.95 and fellow 17-year-old Alexandra Trusova made it a Russian Olympic Committee one-two, with Kaori Sakamoto of Japan claiming bronze.

However, rather than comfort Valieva, coach Eteri Tutberidze instead reportedly asked her "why did you stop fighting?" in reference to an initial mistake on the teenager's opening triple axel.

Speaking at a news conference on Friday, IOC chief Bach confirmed the organisation was concerned.

"There is a very sad story about Kamila Valieva," Bach said. "I was very disturbed when I watched the competition on TV, in her performance how high the pressure must have been. This pressure is beyond my imagination in particular for a girl of 15 years.

"Rather than giving her comfort, rather than trying to help her. You could feel this chilling atmosphere, this distance. If you were interpreting the body language, it got even worse. It was even dismissive.

"To see her struggling, trying to compose herself, you can see the immense mental stress, perhaps she would have preferred to leave this story behind her.

"All of which does not give me confidence in the entourage of Kamila, neither in regard to what happened in the past or as far as it concerns the future. This was no way to treat a 15-year-old under such mental stress. 

"I hope she has the support of her friends and family to help her through this difficult situation."

Valieva won team gold last week before her failed drugs test came to light, which prompted calls for the youngster to be thrown out of the Games.

A Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) ruling allowed Valieva to compete in the singles, but she is still the subject of an anti-doping investigation and her entourage – including doctors, coaches and other adults surrounding her – are also being investigated.

Olympics chief Thomas Bach has confirmed he will meet with tennis star Peng Shuai during the Winter Olympics in Beijing.

There has been global concern expressed for the safety, whereabouts and wellbeing of Chinese player Peng, who has competed at three summer Olympic Games.

In December, Peng denied making an accusation of sexual assault against a Chinese government official, saying there had been "a lot of misunderstandings" about a post on social media in November.

That post on her Weibo account, since removed, contained sexual assault allegations against Zhang Gaoli, the ex-vice premier and member of the Chinese Communist Party's Politburo Standing Committee.

Amid concerns for Peng after the accusation, the head of the women's tennis tour, WTA chairman Steve Simon, said he struggled to believe she had sent him an email that claimed the allegations were false and that she was safely at home.

The WTA has since suspended all its tournaments in China.

International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Bach said in a news conference on the eve of the Winter Olympics opening ceremony that 36-year-old Peng was living in Beijing, and that she claimed to be allowed to move freely. He said the IOC would support Peng if she considered an "inquiry" into her circumstances necessary.

Bach's stance throughout has been that "quiet diplomacy" is required, and he did not deviate from that on Thursday. He explained Peng would enter the "closed loop" of the Games, which has been designed to separate the Olympics from the rest of Beijing during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

"The answer is, yes, we will have the meeting," Bach said, when the issue was raised in a news conference.

"I'm very happy and grateful to Peng Shuai that she will enter, in order to have this meeting, because she also wanted to have this. We discussed it in November."

Bach said the IOC had previously made contact with Peng "to get to know where she is and as far as possible how she is". He has already spoken to Peng via video link.

"What better way than to have a personal meeting," he added. "This is why already in the first meeting, I said I want to meet personally once I arrive in China, and this will happen.

"It is also not only a sign of respect, but a necessity to respect her and then to listen to her and how she sees the situation, how she wants to live her life. This is what we are step by step trying to find out.

"If she wants to have an inquiry, of course we would also support her in this, but it must be her decision. It's her life; it's her allegations. We have heard the allegations, and we have heard the withdrawal.

"We will have this personal meeting and there we will continue this conversation, and we will know better about her physical integrity and her mental state when we can meet in person. This was the objective of this initiative from the very beginning.

"We say it publicly we have this information, but so far only by video conference. This cannot replace the personal contact and appearance.

"We know from her explanations during these video conferences that she is living here, in Beijing. She's reporting she can move freely, she's spending time with her family and friends, and now we will be able to do the next step in a personal meeting to convince us of her wellbeing and her state of mind."

Gianni Infantino's plan for a biennial World Cup came under fire from Olympic figures on Thursday, with a claim FIFA could "create immeasurable damage" across sport.

At the International Olympic Committee (IOC) congress in Beijing, held on the eve of the Winter Olympics opening ceremony, the view was voiced that football could have a profoundly negative impact if the World Cup switches from being held once every four years.

The powerful European and South American confederations, UEFA and CONMEBOL, have refused to support world governing body FIFA's plans, but there is support from within Asia, Africa and the CONCACAF region that covers North and Central America, plus the Caribbean.

FIFA issued studies in December that showed solidarity funding for each of its 211 national associations would rise from $6million to "potentially" $25million for the first four-year cycle of an era of biennial World Cups.

Yet there is concern among senior figures in other sports that football's power could be detrimental in the wider picture of sport, pushing other events into the background.

Algerian Mustapha Berraf, who serves as president of the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA), told the IOC congress he was firmly opposed to FIFA plans.

"The plan would create immeasurable damage and would put sport in danger and in particular football," Berraf said. "It would simply push away other sports and relegate them to the back benches – which is unacceptable – and create a rift between women's and men's sport, and be a setback to our aim of creating equity and parity for all sports."

According to the Guardian, Berraf added: "I make the request to put an end to this endeavour which is incompatible with our Olympic values."

There was also opposition expressed by Nenad Lalovic, president of United World Wrestling, and Ryu Seung-min, vice-president of the IOC Athletes' Commission.

IOC president Thomas Bach said Infantino, who is also an IOC member, had written to him this week to advise he would not be able to attend congress, denying members a chance to discuss the World Cup plans face to face.

"We would like to discuss this with the FIFA president, but this is not possible because he cancelled his visit to Beijing the day before yesterday," said Bach.

"We should not discuss this now on a wider scale on this issue in his absence in respect for our colleague."

Bach said the remarks would be sent on to Infantino.

Asked later in the day how he had learned that Infantino would not be coming to Beijing, Bach told a news conference the FIFA chief had blamed the pandemic.

He said: "Mr Infantino has written me a letter the day before yesterday, [in which he said] that because of the pandemic situation he would not travel to Beijing, and he would follow the session from Cameroon, where he would be for the semi-finals and the final of the Africa Cup (of Nations)."

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