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Historic Donetsk pole vault arena targeted in violent attack
Thursday, 29 May 2014
By Nick Butler
Firemen attempt to extinguish fires engulfing the Druzhba Arena in Donetsk, where numerous pole vault world records have been set ©AFP/Getty ImagesThe Druzhba Arena in Donetsk where a dozen pole vault world record have been set since 1990, has been looted and set on fire during the violence currently engulfing Eastern Ukraine.
Valuables were stolen and surveillance equipment was destroyed at the arena on Monday night (May 26) before a fire was started, with images suggesting the upper part of the building has been badly damaged.
The arena is home to the Donbass Donetsk ice hockey team, who play in the Russia-based Kontinental Hockey League, with the club owned by local politician Borys Kolesnichenko.
The attack has put a big question mark over whether Donetsk will be able to stage the second tier competition of the World Ice Hockey Championships from April 18 to 24 next year.
Matches are scheduled to take place in the Druzhba Arena.
It is thought the attack was carried out by pro-Russian separatist forces, with the fact Kolesnichenko is a known ally of billionaire businessman Rinat Akhmetov, who condemned the separatists earlier this month, having contributed to the attack.
Players and coaching staff will be drafted in to help with repairs at the arena, the club has said, as they remain hopeful of repairing the arena in time for the beginning of the new season at the end of August.
But it is as a pole vault venue the arena is best known, having hosted the annual indoor Pole Vault Star meeting ever year since 1990.
In the very first meeting Sergey Bubka, now a member of the International Olympic Committee Executive Board and President of the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine, set the first of three world indoor records in the competition, culminating in a best of 6.15 metres in 1993.
This mark stood for 21 years until France's London 2012 Olympic champion Renaud Lavillenie cleared 6.16m on February 15 this year.
Russian star Yelena Isinbayeva also broke the women's world record on eight different occasions, including at every edition of the event between 2004 and 2009, when she became the first woman to clear five metres indoors.
Bubka was among those who expressed their sadness at the attack.
"Hope Arena will be restored soon continuing to serve sport. We remember @airlavillenie 616 there this year," he wrote on Twitter.
The attack on the arena, built in 1975, comes as violence increases across Eastern Ukraine, with the election of pro-European confectionery tycoon Petro Poroshenko as the country's President on Sunday (May 25) having added to the discontent among separatist forces.
There have also been significant clashes elsewhere in the city between separatist and Ukrainian Government forces, including at Donetsk's airport, as the tension shows no sign of clearing.
This morning pro-Russian rebels also shot down a military helicopter near Sloviansk, 110 kilometres to the north of Donetsk, killing 14 people.
A decision is still to be made over whether the 2015 edition of EuroBasket will be taken away from Ukraine, with matches due to take place in Donetsk among other cities.
But the Under-18 European Championship Men Division B, which was due to be staged in Donetsk, Ukraine's fifth largest city, was moved to Bulgaria in March.
Contact the writer of this story at email@example.com
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