Friday 23 March, 2018

IOC tight-lipped over 'Russian' participation in closing ceremony

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is yet to make a decision on whether the Olympic Athletes of Russia team will appear under their national flag at the Pyeongchang closing ceremony.

Russia's federation is subject of an IOC ban after state-sponsored doping was uncovered, but 168 athletes were allowed to compete under the Olympic flag, provided they could prove they were clean.

However, controversy has followed the team, with bronze-medal mixed doubles curler Alexander Krushelnitsky testing positive for meldonium.

Russian athletes were warned before the Games not to celebrate with the Russian flag, although several have expressed hope of doing so at the end of the competition.

IOC director of communications Mark Adams said: "The behaviour of the team in general and other aspects will be taken into account by the IOC through the invitation group which is led by IOC member Nicola Hervitz.

"They will look at whether the spirit as well as the letter of the law has been observed. And they will make a recommendation to the Executive Board here on the 24th February.

"There will be an announcement shortly after, so I wouldn't want to pre-empt that.

"They're looking at the Games and pre-Games, the whole period but particularly the Games period in total to see whether the spirit and the letter of the law has been observed."

Adams stood by the decision to allow Russian athletes to compete in the Games - the OAR team are the fourth-best represented squad in South Korea - and is confident that the ceremony will not be overshadowed, regardless of what decision the IOC makes.

"We wanted to make sure individual athletes, three quarters of whom have never taken part in the Olympic Games, should have a chance to show they're clean and can compete," Adams said. 

"There has to be a process, and you guys would hold us to account if there wasn't a proper process. 

"And obviously the end of that process is to look at the comportment of the team and the athletes throughout the Games. That can only happen towards the end of the Games. My view is that in no way will that affect the closing ceremony. The closing ceremony will be as spectacular and as touching as the opening ceremony."