Wait, ‘Olympic Athletes From Russia?’ Why aren’t they just called…Russians? If you’re confused, find out the reason why these Winter Olympians are called OARs.
1. It’s part of a doping punishment. While watching the 2018 Winter Olympics from Pyeongchang, South Korea, viewers might have seen a figure skater or a snowboarder being referred to as an “Olympics Athlete From Russia.” This isn’t just someone being very, very specific. This is actually part of a massive penalty handed down by the International Olympics Committee. All 169 Russian athletes competing in the 2018 games have to identify as an OAR as punishment for their country’s government-run doping program that allowed it to cheat in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics.
The IOC banned “Russia” from competing in Pyeongchang, but the committee made a compromise. Since the ban wasn’t entirely fair – as there were Russian athletes who didn’t violate the doping rules, per Vox – the IOC decided that individual Russian athletes could still partake in the games if they passed a screening process and proved they didn’t dope. Plus, they also had to follow certain rules…
2. You won’t see the Russian flag waved if an OAR wins… As seen during the Opening Ceremonies, OARs are not allowed to be all decked out in their country colors. The OARs came out in neutral, grey coats and they marched behind the Olympics flag, not the Russian flag. As part of the punishment, they are expected to “refrain from any public form of publicity, activity and communication associated with the national flag, anthem, emblem and symbol,” according to the Olympic conduct guidelines, per Time.
3. …and you won’t hear the Russian national anthem if they win. Yep, that’s right. Even if the OAR hockey team wins gold (as they are the favorites since the NHL ha refused to allow its players to compete for Team USA or Canada, according to Reuters) the Russian national anthem won’t play. Instead, the team will stand under the Olympics flag as the 2018 anthem, “Let Everyone Shine,” will play.
4. They’ve already won medals. As of Feb. 12, the OAR team had already landed on the podium in two events. They took silver in the Team Figure Skating and Semen Elistratov, 27, won bronze in the Men’s 1,500m speed skating event. “I dedicate this medal to all guys that have been excluded from these Games in such a hard and unfair way,” he said, according to CNN. “This medal is for you.”
He was part of a group of about 40 Russians who were exonerated in April 2016, by the Word Anti-Doping Agency, who said that a presence of less than one microgram of meldonium, a banned substance, was found in their samples before March 1, 2016.
5. The ban doesn’t stop fans from rooting for them. During the team figure skating event, fans waved the Russian flag and wore ponchos in the red-white and blue of the country’s tricolor. They even had hats that said, “Russia In My Heart.” Despite the ban preventing the team from proudly representing their country, they still felt a warm welcome at the Winter games.
“We felt like at home,” Dmitri Soloviev, a Russian ice dancer said, per the New York Times. “We felt that every person sitting in each corner of the stadium was yelling the name of Russia.”
HollywoodLifers, do you think the IOC punishment is fair?