Golden tones of Tchaikovsky concerto fete Russian winners as ROC anthem in Tokyo

Posted at 5:57 PM, Jul 25, 2021

When Russian shooter Vitalina Batsarashkina stood on the podium to celebrate her gold medal in shooting at the Tokyo Games, somewhere composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky was smiling.

True, the famed Russian composer died 128 years ago, but his spirit—and his music—live on at these Olympic Games. The pounding strains of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 will be played during medals ceremonies when a Russian athlete wins gold.

Why? In 2019 the World Anti-Doping Agency placed sanctions placed on Russia for state-sanctioned doping of athletes. The sanctions sidelined many Russian athletes for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games. Russians in Tokyo are wearing blue, red and white uniforms, the colors of their flag. But they are not displaying the Russian flag, which has been replaced by one featuring the Olympic rings. Athletes are referred to as those from the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC).

The sanctions also mean no thunderous Russian national anthem at Olympic medal ceremonies this year in Tokyo or next at the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing. Instead, cue the Tchaikovsky concerto, which has some Olympic fans on social media rooting for Russian gold.

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Born in 1840, Tchaikovsky also composed music for the ballets Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker, which he completed a year before he died in 1893 at the age of 53. While the composer’s music may seem like a no-brainer as an anthem substitute, the Russian’s first choice was the patriotic folk song Katyusha. But it was nixed by The Court of Arbitration for sport.  

As for Batsarashkina, she won the women's 10-meter pistol event in Tokyo on Sunday with clutch shots on her final round to edge Bulgarian Antoaneta Kostadinova and China’s Jiang Ranxin.

“I did not set myself a goal to win the gold here, or to be one of the medallists or even reach the final. I just wanted to shoot as well as I can," she  said.

Information from Reuters was used in this report.