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Russian athletes march as 'OAR' at Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony


While Russia isn’t officially competing in the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, 168 Russian athletes are competing under the Olympic Athletes from Russia flag. (Reuters)

OAR isn’t a new country — though it sure looked like it during the Opening Ceremony at the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The Olympic Athletes from Russia marched in the Parade of Nations during the Ceremony in PyeongChang, South Korea, on Friday night behind an Olympic flag. The 168 athletes were dressed in simple, plain grey coats and white scarves and hats. There were no Russian flags to be seen on the floor.

Russia was banned from competing at the 2018 Olympics following a doping scandal back in 2014 at the Sochi Winter Olympics. Russia still denies the allegations.

However the International Olympic Committee didn’t enforce the ban for all Russian athletes. Athletes who passed drug screenings and were approved by the IOC were allowed to compete as Olympic Athletes from Russia in the 2018 games. Appeals to enter the Games for athletes who had doping bans reversed earlier this month were rejected as early as nine hours before the Opening Ceremony.

Though there are several restrictions for OAR athletes. They weren’t allowed to march under the Russian flag, and can’t wear any of the country’s logos or colors. Should an OAR athlete win a medal, the Olympic theme song will be played during the medal ceremony instead of the Russian national anthem.

According to the Olympic conduct guidelines, OAR athletes are expected to “refrain from any public form of publicity, activity and communication associated with the national flag, anthem, emblem and symbol.”

While they are forced to compete as neutral athletes under the OAR label, it has still been very clear so far that the athletes are representing Russia. During the Korean broadcast of the Opening Ceremony, the Russian flag was shown on the bottom of the screen when the OAR team took the track in the Parade of Nations. During the men’s team figure skating competition on Thursday night, a large group of Russian fans held up Russian flags, signs and spelled out “#RussiaInMyHeart” on their shirts.

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