Russia's 335 athletes to compete at Tokyo Olympics without national flag and national anthem
Russia approves a roster of 335 athletes to compete at the Tokyo Olympics who will participate under a neutral flag and anthem.
Amongst the multiple bans received by Russia and after an astonishing number of Olympic medals being stripped off, it still seems that the country has not learnt from its mistakes. With a recurring list of doping sanctions, this news is not much of a news in itself, other than the fact that the country will now represent the "Russian Olympic Committee" and use the acronym "ROC" instead of "Russia" at the Tokyo Olympics.
The Olympic delegation comprises 185 female and 150 male Russian athletes, according to TASS. The 335 athletes approved in the roster will compete at Tokyo under a neutral flag and will hear music composed by Pyotr Tchaikovsky.
With participation of these athletes free of any Russian representation, the ROC President, Stanislav Pozdnyakov, addressed the press stating:
"Our delegation is larger now and we are waiting for the outcome of our basketball team's performance in qualifiers to finalize the roster," Stanislav said.
What led to the ban of Russia from the Olympic Games?
In the December of 2019, World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) discovered that the data provided to them by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) had been manipulated by the Russian Authorities to protect athletes involved in its state sponsored doping scheme. RUSADA then filed an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) in Switzerland's Lausanne and declared the reduction of the ban from 4 years to 2 years.
This decision, in turn, deprived the Russian athletes of their right to participate in any of the international events, including the Olympic and Paralympic Games, under the national flag of Russia. According to TASS, this ruling also stripped Russia off the right to bid for the organization of all international sports events or championships for the same period of 2 years.
Why is the term "neutral" used for the Russian athletes?
Even though the ruling banned Russia from appearing at any international events, it did not completely ban them from participation under a different name. Since, the athletes, who were Olympic bound, were under jeopardy of non-participation, Russia decided to term these athletes as "Neutral Athletes" and the team as a "Neutral Team". Playing under the name of ROC, Neutral Athletes are the athletes which are cleared of all doping tests and have been allowed to participate at the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
In April 2021, the ROC uniforms unveiled the bold white, blue and red colours of the national flag of Russia and the President too mentioned that one doesn't need a "strong imagination" to see the national flag in the uniform design, The Washington Post reported. The team will also compete under the ROC symbol, instead of the Russian flag and the country's national emblem.
In 2017, President of Russia, Vladimir Putin commented that it would be a humiliation for the country to compete under a neutral flag or boycott the Olympics altogether, and yet, we are all here. According to TASS, WADA's sanctions will be in force until December 2022.