Russia and the Olympics: What to Expect in Tokyo
The long-awaited 2020 Tokyo Olympics are about to finally begin, with the opening ceremony taking place on Friday 23rd July. But what events is Russia likely to succeed in, and how will the ban from the World Anti-Doping Agency affect how the athletes are represented?
Russia in the 2016 Olympics
In 2016, Russia came 4th in the medal table, achieving 19 gold medals and 56 medals overall. Some of the sports which gained the most medals for the team were judo (2 gold medals), fencing (4 gold medals) and wrestling (4 gold medals). Russia also came 4th in the 2012 Olympics, but in 2008 took 3rd place.
Hopes for the 2020 Olympics
Although in 2016 Russia was banned from sending any track and field athletes to the games, this year they have been permitted to send 10 athletes for this category. This includes the high jumper Mariya Lastiskene, who came first in the 2019 world championships. There are also high hopes for Sofya Velikaya, olympic fencing champion, and Maxim Mikhailov, olympic volleyball champion, who will together be carrying the Russian Olympic Committee flag at the opening ceremony. Russia also has three representatives for rock climbing, a sport which is being introduced for the first time to the Olympics this year. The Russian Olympic Committee will be sending their highest number of representatives for sailing, with 37 athletes competing in this category.
What does the 2019 ban mean for the Russian team?
In 2019, the World Anti-Doping Agency banned Russia from putting together a national team in the Olympics or any world championship event. This means that Russian athletes will be participating under the name of the Russian Olympic Committee. The word Russia will be allowed to appear on their uniforms, as long as somewhere else on the outfit the words ‘neutral athlete’, or similar, are used. At the opening ceremony Russia’s flag will not be flown, but will instead be replaced with the flag of the Russian Olympic Committee. This flag depicts three flames in red, white and blue atop the five olympic rings. When a Russian athlete receives a gold medal, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 will be played instead of the national anthem.
All in all, it will be interesting to see how the measures imposed by the World Anti-Doping Agency will affect Russia’s performance. Despite the restrictions, it will still be very clear who the 335 Russian athletes are representing, and, as ever, we can expect to see many gold-medal winning performances from these athletes.
Leila, currently studying at Liden & Denz St. Petersburg