Russian fans proudly flying flag despite ban

From ESPN - February 15, 2018

GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- Ilya Kovalchuk has a rule for any fans wanting an Olympic selfie -- put the Russian flag away.

The forward for the "Olympic Athletes from Russia" hockey team is worried about breaking International Olympic Committee sanctions imposed on Russia after its Sochi doping scandal. Athletes compete in neutral uniforms and have to sign a document saying they wo not protest the ruling that turned Team Russia into OAR.

"We wo not chase [fans] away'' if they are carrying Russian flags, Kovalchuk said Tuesday. "If there's an IOC rule then we will talk to them, explain it and take a photograph without the flag.''

In the stands, though, Russian fans can be as patriotic as they like.

They have been a loud and proud presence at events like hockey, biathlon and figure skating, wrapped in flags and chanting in Russian. Many say they want to dress up to compensate for their athletes' drab neutral uniforms.

The fans made the half-full Gangneung Hockey Center ring with chants during the Russian hockey team's opening game against Slovakia on Wednesday but were left disappointed in defeat.

A line of Russian women danced with pompoms, a Soviet flag flew and South Koreans lined up for selfies with a man dressed in a bear costume. "Russia is a big country and a great power,'' read the inscription on one Russian flag.

"We are shouting so much that our voices are going,'' said a fan who identified himself only as Andrei. "We are just devoting ourselves to it and supporting our athletes, because there's not so many people here from our country.''

Many fans wore replicas of the Olympic uniform Russians had been due to wear before the IOC punishment came down in December.

Andrei Savinov, a 53-year-old from Moscow who deals in wood, hunted for souvenirs at the Olympic Park with his wife, both decked out in Russian uniforms from the 2014 Sochi Olympics.


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