What country is ROC at Tokyo Olympics 2020? Is Russia banned from the Olympics?

The Olympic team competing for Russia at the Tokyo games in 2021 is competing under an unusual name and amid controversy about the country’s involvement in the international sports championship – here’s why.

With the Tokyo Olympic Games 2020 now in motion following the international championship’s Opening Ceremony on Friday July 23, it was certainly clear that with a lack of crowds, missing countries and unexpected guests that it would be an Olympics like no other.

The Games is now in full swing as the competition resumes a year later than originally intended and with many parts of the world still gripped by the coronavirus pandemic and climbing cases as the tournament finally got underway.

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But the appearance of the ‘ROC’ amid the countries making their way through the National Stadium in the Japanese capital was yet another confusing feature of the Opening Ceremony for viewers worldwide.

What country is ROC at Tokyo Olympics 2020? Is Russia banned from the Olympics? (Image Credit: Loic Venance/AFP via Getty Images)What country is ROC at Tokyo Olympics 2020? Is Russia banned from the Olympics? (Image Credit: Loic Venance/AFP via Getty Images)
What country is ROC at Tokyo Olympics 2020? Is Russia banned from the Olympics? (Image Credit: Loic Venance/AFP via Getty Images)

The landmark opening of the delayed Olympic Games saw world number two fencing champion Sofya Velikaya and volleyball champ Maxim Mikhaylov march the Russian team through the stadium on Friday, leaving Olympics fans worldwide puzzled by the presence of the team and the meaning of ‘ROC’.

Here’s why the Russian team go by this name and a breakdown of what their supposed Olympics ban actually means.

Is Russia banned from the Olympics?

Ahead of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, Russia was found to have been engaged in a state-sponsored doping campaign which implicated a number of athletes who had competed for the country on a national level for many years.

Despite Russia’s strenuous denials of doping accusations and the hand of the state in upholding the activity, the International Olympic Committee banned the country from officially taking part in the 2018 Winter Olympics on December 5 2017.

It did, however, allow clean Russian athletes with no record of doping to enter the PyeongChang games under a different flag, emblem and team name – with athletes from the country entering the 2018 Winter games as OAR, ‘Olympic Athlete from Russia’.

In 2019 the World Athletics organisation, known as the IAAF, upheld the ban on Russia from entering the Olympic Games for four years.

The ban means that Russia cannot formally enter or represent itself at the largest sports competition in the world for four years – but this period was reduced to two years in 2020.

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What country is ROC?

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While the ban means that the country itself cannot compete as ‘Russia’ or use its national flag or anthem in the competition, Russian athletes have still qualified for competition at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games held this summer in 2021.

Russian athletes have therefore had to compete under a completely different flag and emblem, making up a 335-person team of athletes known as the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC).

As such, athletes from the country who have been subject to testing to ensure they are clean, will be seen competing in a number of events at the Tokyo Games and likely topping the medal table at the international championship.

The ROC have already gained 12 medals in total, placing them fourth in the medal win ranks so far but ahead of Team GB on seven medals as of Monday afternoon.

The ROC’s latest win was seen today (July 26) as its men’s gymnastics team took gold, with Artur Dalaloyan and Nikita Nagornyy declaring a triumph for a Russian team in this sport for the first time since the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games.

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