One day in the late 2000s, disappointed and frustrated because he felt that his successful athletes at the Sydney Olympic Games could not fully enjoy the experience of their victory, President Vladimir Putin decided that the Russian anthem had to be changed. The patriotic song by Mikhail Glinka, adopted as an anthem by his predecessor Boris Yeltsin only 10 years earlier, lacked lyrics, preventing the champions from fully expressing their joy and patriotism from the top of the podium, so Putin rescued Sasha’s Soviet anthem Alexander, who was in force until perestroika, ordered his lyricist, Sergei Mikhalkov, to compose some new verses and since then, the Russians could shout at the top of their lungs with the gold medal around their necks. Russia, our sacred homeland, Russia our beloved country.
But the official anthem, and the accompanying experience, will be banned from them at the Tokyo Games, which begin on July 23, as punishment for their widespread doping practices and cheating at the Sochi 2014 Winter Games. Like the Court Arbitration of Sport (TAS) allowed him to choose a replacement music, the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) decided that the podium sounded Katusha, love song in times of war, the most patriotic and Russian thing there can be. So Russian, so popular anthem, so heartfelt is its lyrics that the CAS did not authorize it. And with the Swiss court acting in this way, as great as the possible damage caused to Russian athletes may be the favor it does to the ears of the few spectators who will be able to attend the Olympic stadiums and to the billions who will see them on television, because Russia has chosen as definitive music the number one piano concerto that Pyotr Illich Tchaikovsky composed in 1874, one of the heights of romantic music.
It will be the superb start of the horns in descending fanfare that invades the stadium and floods it with the unmistakable and intense, like coffee, the aroma of Russia, and not the rhythm so similar to the Kasaschock from Katusha. And it will not sound a few times in the Games of the XXXII Olympiad. In both London 2012, with 20 gold medals, and Rio 2016, with 19, Russia ranked fourth in the overall medal table. And in the Japanese capital it will compete as the best classical composition with the German anthem, Deutschland, Deutschland über alles, with music composed by the Austrian Franz Joseph Haydn in 1797 to honor Emperor Francis on his birthday.
Although the conditions set by the TAS last December to allow the participation of Russian athletes include the prohibition of using the name of Russia fairly (the team will not nominally represent Russia country, but its Olympic committee, and will appear as ROC in the results and medal table), the shield and the flag (replaced by the Olympic flag in the ceremonies), the skill of the Moscow leaders will make the white, blue and red national tricolor is omnipresent in parades and competitions. It will do so thanks to the subtle art of turning the athletes themselves into walking flags, since that simulates the tracksuits and shirts they will wear in Tokyo and that were presented on April 14.
The presence of Russia will thus be strange but very sonorous and colorful in a Games whose celebration and development is still unknown three months after its start due to the covid pandemic. Just yesterday, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga declared a state of emergency until May 11 in Tokyo due to an outbreak of cases. The prevention measures, increased because from April 29 to May 5 the so-called Golden Week, spring break in Japan, includes the celebration behind closed doors, without public, of all sports activities, starting with the Baseball League, and the prohibition of serving alcohol in bars and restaurants.