Bulgaria Rhythmic Gymnastics Olympic Team Trapped in Moscow

Sports | August 13, 2008, Wednesday // 00:00

As of noon on Wednesday, the Bulgarian National Rhythmic Gymnastics team was still at the Moscow airport Sheremetyevo-2, despite the fact that they were scheduled to leave for Beijing Tuesday afternoon.

According to an official statement made around 11:00 pm Tuesday by the team's coach Ilyiana Raeva before Radio Gong, all Bulgarian competitors were on board of an airplane, but an hour and half later the plane had not taken off.

The official reason given by the Russian "Aeroflot" airlines is technical difficulties, but rumors circulating among the stranded passengers cite attempts on the part of the company to cut down on expenses.

The huge delay is disrupting completely the team's schedule and is depriving the Bulgarian competitors of a full day of practice.

"I have warned everyone here, at Sheremetyevo, that we must be on an airplane immediately and that otherwise I would stir a big scandal. We have been transferred from one airplane to another and we are already sitting on board of the third one for an hour and half without departing. There have been real commotion and confusion, a terrible shove and push in which Mariela Dukova almost suffocated; I barely managed to pull her out," Raeva explained Tuesday evening.

According to information from the Russian media, the flight SU 573 was scheduled to take off at 6:05 pm Tuesday afternoon. All passengers boarded the plane only to be told half an hour later that an additional technical checkup of the plane was needed while another half an hour later they were all asked to leave the aircraft.

In addition to the Bulgarian Gymnastics Team, many Chinese citizens, including children, as well as Russian sports fans traveling to the Olympics are among the passengers.

The Russian media further comments that the Bulgarian team stranded in Moscow, includes world-class competitors, who are among the favorites to win Olympic medals.

Another flight scheduled to leave for Beijing - SU 571, was not announced at all. That flight was supposed to include on board the Russian field and track team with the Olympic champion Tatiyana Lebedeva, heavy athletics and other Russian competitors.

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