The Russian Olympic Team Found a Sneaky Way to Wear Its Flag Despite a Ban

Russian athletes have to compete as ROC—the Russian Olympic Committee—after the country received a ban from competing.

Manan Vatsayana/AFP/Getty Images

In 2019, Russia was banned from competing in global competitions for four years by the World Doping Agency. The ban was in response to an extensive doping operation that had been covered up. In 2020, the ban was reduced to two years—which still meant that Russian athletes could not compete under the Russian flag in the 2020 Summer Olympics or the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

Instead, the 215 Russian athletes attending the 2022 Winter Olympics will compete under the flag of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC). The ROC is essentially a way for Russian athletes to compete while not explicitly representing Russia. The Russian flag and national anthem are banned from all Olympic events, and Russian government officials are not permitted to attend the Games, unless invited by the host country.

However, at the opening ceremony for the Beijing Winter Olympics, you may have seen both the Russian flag and the Russian president Vladimir Putin. Putin's presence is easily explained. He was invited to attend by the host country. The flags are a different matter.

While the athletes walked under the banner of the ROC, which contains the Olympic rings and the colors of the Russian flag, their jacket sleeves bore the Russian flag. The flag seems to be a violation of the rules set for Russia's ban.

So far, this violation hasn't resulted in any consequences for Russia or their athletes.

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Opheli Garcia Lawler is a staff writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @opheligarcia and Instagram @opheligarcia.