Sharing Utah’s Olympic Tradition With Ukrainian Athletes

Sharing Utah’s Olympic Tradition With Ukrainian Athletes Photo Credit: Brennan Smith

When the crisis in Ukraine escalated in early 2022, the people of Utah stepped forward not only with monetary and critical item donations, but in a way only Utah could. Uniquely qualified with world class Olympic training facilities, Utah rallied to provide aid for aspiring Ukrainian Olympians and Paraolympians displaced by the war. 

“Utah has a long and proud legacy of welcoming refugees to our state,” explained Utah Governor Spencer Cox in support of the cause. “This is an incredible opportunity to support our Ukrainian friends in pursuing their goals in sport and life.”

On April 29th, 2022 The Community Foundation of Utah (CFU) partnered  with the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation (UOLF) to create the Ukrainian Olympic and Paralympic Solidarity Fund, ultimately raising $432,000 to support hosting Ukrainian athletes in Utah and continue their training.

Collin Hilton, President and CEO of the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation helped champion the fund. "This transcends sports. This is the right thing to do. It showcases what Utah is all about, about being welcoming and hospitable to folks in need and I'm just thrilled we're being able to help,” he said.

The Ukrainian Olympic and Paralympic Fund provided critical resources for UOLF as their staff prepared for the arrival of the Ukrainian Curling Team and the Ukrainian Freestyle Ski team with their coaches and families. Every element of the teams’ transportation, lodging, training, and meal costs were provided for by the Ukrainian Olympic and Paralympic Fund. The athletes were embraced by Utah’s community and were celebrated in parades, numerous competitions and special events, including an air show put on by Hill Air Force Base.

“We remember everything about Salt Lake City, it will carry us far,” Ukrainian Olympic Coach Erkki Lill reflected on the experience. “Take care, our great helpers. Thank you to your team.” 

When it came time for the teams’ departure in August and early September 2022, athletes expressed gratitude for the comfort and consistency provided during such turmoil in their home country. The relationships created between Ukraine and Utah’s Olympic communities will continue as their teams compete in upcoming competitions.

The Ukrainian Olympic and Paralympic Fund not only serves as yet another example of Utah’s commitment to aiding individuals and families fleeing crises, but as an innovative way for our state to support Ukraine as only Utah could. 


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