After the doping scandal that implicated the Russian sports ministry, the Olympics imposed a ban that will only allow Russian athletes to participate in the Winter Games on neutral colors.
The ban includes flags, uniforms or any symbols that will identify them as Russian athletes. It’s a prohibition that fans are only too willing to defy.
Olympic Athletes from Russia hockey team forward Ilya Kovalchuk said they couldn’t very well admonish the fans for supporting the team. He said they can only talk to the fans, and make sure they hide the flag when they take photographs.
But the fans are not in a discreet mood as they chant in Russian in support of their athletes in figure skating, biathlon or hockey.
Andrei Savinov, a 53-year-old Muscovite, brought along his wife to the Olympics and they made sure to wear the Russian uniforms from Sochi in 2014.
“We bought the uniform specially so that Russianness is at least visible somehow,” he said.
Andrei’s wife, Olga, has said that the competition in PyeongChang is diluted somewhat because the best athletes of Russia were not participating.
“I think it reduces the level of competition,” Olga said. “They won’t feel like real, absolute winners. It’s sporting competition, a festival, and people had been preparing for it all their lives.”
So far, the International Olympics Committee has not imposed any sanctions on fans for defying the ban. But athletes who will be caught violating the order will face dire consequences. This is the reason why at the Sports House, which is where Russian athletes socialize with their fans, extra caution is taken to make sure that no athlete will be caught with Russian flags or symbols, said the report.
But Anatoly Yanochkin, who traveled to PyeongChang to show his support for Russia, described the Olympic committee ban as “more than stupid.”