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Photo by Sam Balye on Unsplash

By Saish Bhise

Barely a decade ago, Russians were proud to host the world's most expensive Olympics, The Sochi Winter Olympics. Moreover, the Russians won the most medals than any other participating nation. All was glorious, until the unfolding of the alleged state-sponsored doping scandal.


The alleged scandal involved various high profile government officials from the Foreign Intelligence Services (FSB). The FSB is the principal security agency of Russia and is the successor of the dreaded KGB. Russia's fall from grace moment came when the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) imposed a ban of four years, ensuing Russia won't be an official contender in the ongoing 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the upcoming 2022 Fifa World Cup. The ban was later shortened by two years in 2020. Russian athletes can still circumvent the ban and compete in the Games but under the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) title.

Sport is an important part of Russian society. The ambition to prove that Russian's can pull off a major sports event like the Olympics transformed the geographical landscape of Sochi city completely. Sochi, from being an idyllic resort city, located on the serene banks of the Sochi River, in southern Russia became the hotspot for tourists from all around the world. It was the host city for the 2017 Winter Olympics. The original budget for the Games was estimated up to US$12 billion, but various factors plausibly caused cost overruns. Which culminated in an actual expenditure of US$51 billion, surpassing the estimated $44 billion cost of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Making, the Sochi Winter Olympics Games the most expensive Olympics in the world. Three years after the 2014 Games raised an outcry over the estimated $50 billion price tag, the story of the Kremlin's Olympic fiasco was overshadowed by Moscow's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine.

Why was Russia barred from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics?

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) banned Russia after its investigators found that Russia had tampered with drug-testing data to cover up the state-sponsored doping programs that involved over 1,000 athletes. In accordance with the ban, Russia cannot be an official participant at the upcoming 2022 Fifa World Cup in Qatar or the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

How does the ROC function?

While the Russian athletes in Tokyo will still be permitted to wear the Russian colours of white, blue and red, under the rules of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), they are prohibited from displays of national representation.

The IOC rules state that,

  • "All the public displays of the organization's participant name should use the acronym 'ROC,' and not the full name 'Russian Olympic Committee'".
  • Instead of the usual Russian flag, the ROC will be represented by another flag. Currently, it is represented by a flag that features an Olympic flame in the Russian colours above the five Olympic rings.
  • If any ROC athlete or a team wins a medal, Pyotr Tchaikovsky's "Piano Concerto No. 1" will be played instead of the protocolic way of playing the winning country's national anthem.

Meanwhile, in Russia, athletes were issued a cheat sheet from the Russian Olympic Committee, well in advance of the Tokyo Games. The purported cheat sheet outlines advice on how to deal with pesky reporters questioning the WADA doping ban, the annexation of Crimea, possible sexual harassment allegations and even 'Black Lives Matter' for instance. As of now, ROC stands fifth in the medals tally at The Tokyo Games. But, it is still expected to come in the top three contenders in the final medal tally.


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