During the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics on Friday, Feb. 9, one country was noticeably absent: Russia. The IOC (or the International Olympic Committee) announced in December that the nation would be banned from competing in Pyeongchang, South Korea, due to a massive doping scandal.
So, not only was the Russian flag absent during the opening ceremony (which already took place in South Korea, but will air in the US on Friday night), but the country's government officials were forbidden from attending. However, there are some Russian athletes who've been given permission to compete in their respective sports, but they will be wearing neutral uniforms. And if they win, the Russian national anthem will not play.
A shot from the 2014 opening ceremony in Sochi, Russia. (Photo Credit: Getty Images)
What exactly got Russia banned from the Olympics?
After completing a lengthy investigation, the IOC found the nation guilty of "executing an extensive state-backed doping program," the New York Times reported. "This was an unprecedented attack on the integrity of the Olympic Games and sport," IOC President Thomas Bach said in a statement. "The IOC EB, after following due process, has issued proportional sanctions for this systemic manipulation while protecting the clean athletes. This should draw a line under this damaging episode and serve as a catalyst for a more effective anti-doping system led by WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency)."
He added, "As an athlete myself, I feel very sorry for all the clean athletes from all NOCs who are suffering from this manipulation. Working with the IOC Athletes’ Commission, we will now look for opportunities to make up for the moments they have missed on the finish line or on the podium."
The IOC discovered that more than 100 urine samples were tampered with during the 2014 Sochi Games by Russia's sports ministry in an effort to conceal steroid use throughout the course of the competition. Their findings resulted in more than two dozen Russian athletes being disqualified from the Sochi standings, and officials are still sorting through which medals to rescind.
According to the New York Times, events such as the biathlon and cross-country skiing will be impacted most by the ban. We'll be watching to see which countries come out on top in those sports.
What does OAR stand for at the Olympics?
As fans already saw during a few of the preliminaries, Russian athletes have the letters OAR next to their names, which stands for "Olympic Athlete from Russia." Since Russia isn't being recognized at this year's Games, the Olympic rings appear in place of their country's flag. But, spectators are still allowed to wave the flag in the stands.