The third largest team in the PyeongChang Olympics 2018 does not represent a country.
They do not have a flag or an anthem, although all of its members share the same nationality. It is the striking case that occurs in the 23rd edition of the winter games on South Korean soil, which officially began this Friday. The confusing scenario is the result of the decision of the International Olympic Committee to prohibit the participation of Russia as a country in the Olympics.
The detail is that the sanction does not affect the majority of its athletes who are present in PyeongChang competing under the acronym OAR, which is how it is officially identified in English to the Russian Olympic Athletes team. In total there are 169 athletes who during the next 15 days will not be able to defend the colors of their country and will have to do it as “neutral”.
The large delegation of the OAR team is the third largest in South Korea, second only to the United States (242) and Canada (225) .
Below are Germany (153) and hosts (146).
The number of Russian athletes is considerably less than that presented four years ago when they hosted the Sochi games, where they led the medal table. But since then they have been stripped of 13 of those medals, including four gold, for cases of doping. Although the final decision is suspended following the decision of the Court of Arbitration for Sport (TAS, for its acronym in French) to cancel the punishment that weighed on 28 Russian athletes .
The appeal of the sanction that prevented them from being in the Olympics, but their claim was dismissed hours before the opening ceremony.
Athletes who are participating in PyeongChang are clearly identified with the letters OAR in their uniform and in the official results of the tests. It is expected that some of them are struggling to climb to the top of the podium, which in case of achieving it will receive their medals in a ceremony in which the Olympic flag will be hoisted and the Olympic anthem will sound.
They are expected to contain any form of “publicity, activity and public communication associated with the flag, anthem, emblems or symbols” at any of the Olympic venues. Restrictions that in practice should not have much impact among Russian fans.
“With a calm mind I can say that the flag, the anthem and all those things are not important if you have it in your heart and in your brain, ” said art expartor Maxim Trankov, double gold medalist in Sochi. “We are Russians and patriots, all athletes, it does not matter what we are called, whether it is Russian Olympic Athletes or a Russian team, it does not matter because our homeland is Russia.”
According to Alex Capstick, a sports analyst at the BBC, the presence of such a large number of Russian athletes provides a contradictory message from the IOC. On the one hand, it punishes the country for carrying out a systematic doping program, precisely in the past winter Olympics, but then lets most of its athletes participate.
The agency argues that it is not fair to punish those athletes who maintain an impeccable record and who have met all the requirements to participate in PyeongChang. But critics are left with the feeling that Russia has somehow gotten away with it.
Hence, when it is the turn of the performances of the double world champion Evgenia Medvedeva and the European champion Alina Zagitova in the figure skating event it is likely that the commentators will be forced to refer to them as part of the OAR team, but the rest of the world will know that it is Russia.