Russia’s athletes didn’t even get to carry their neutral flag into the Olympics

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It’s easy to miss Russia’s athletes in the opening ceremony of the 2018 Olympic Games.

Typically an Olympic powerhouse, (they were the winningest nation at the 2014 Sochi games) the official Russian Olympic Committee team was banned this year after a series of doping scandals.

Russian athletes who could prove they aren’t doping have been allowed to compete but not under the Russian flag. Instead they are in attendance as “Olympic Athletes from Russia” (OAR for short). Their muted entrance in Pyeongchang today was a radical departure from the 2014 Sochi Olympics, where they enjoyed a home field advantage.

In Sochi, more than 200 athletes walked the Parade of Nations in colorful, fur-trimmed outfits. Bobsledder and 2014 flag bearer Alexander Zubkov (pictured below) would later be banned by the International Olympic Committee for life for doping.

Russia’s flag-bearer Alexander Zubkov leads his country’s contingent during the athletes’ parade at the opening ceremony. (Reuters/Lucy Nicholson)
Russia's athletes cheer during the athletes' parade at the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics
Russia’s athletes cheer during the athletes’ parade at the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Feb. 7, 2014. (Reuters/Lucy Nicholson)
Russia's athletes cheer during the athletes' parade at the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics
Russia’s athletes cheer during the athletes’ parade at the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Feb. 7, 2014. (Reuters/Lucy Nicholson)

This year, 169 Russian competitors arrived at the Olympic Games’ opening ceremonies in jeans, and nearly blank white and grey coats and scarves. They wore blank white hats. There was not a Russian flag—nor its color combination—in sight.

To add insult to injury, a designated athlete wasn’t even carrying the neutral Olympic flag, but rather a volunteer from the Pyeongchang Organizing Committee.

Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics
A volunteer carries the flag of the Olympic Athletes from Russia. (Reuters/Eric Gaillard)
Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics
A volunteer carries the flag of the Olympic Athletes from Russia. (Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

At a venue brimming with hyper-jingoistic pride, Russia’s athletes were left looking stateless, the wards of an anonymous young chaperone.

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