A Tchaikovsky piano concerto is being played at the Olympics instead of the Russian National Anthem. Here’s why.

28 July 2021, 17:35 | Updated: 4 August 2021, 16:15

ROC and Tchaikovsky at Tokyo 2020
ROC and Tchaikovsky at Tokyo 2020. Picture: Getty

By Kyle Macdonald

The nation of Russia is officially banned from the Olympics. So, Russian athletes are hearing Tchaikovsky’s piano concerto when they win.

Have you been catching a great Russian symphonic epic at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics? It would appear that Tchaikovsky is the latest musical star of the world’s biggest sporting event.

In 2019, Russia was banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency from all international sporting competitions, including the Olympics. The ban lasts four years and will remain in place throughout the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

Read more: Tokyo 2020 Olympics opening ceremony: Every piece of music played at the event

After the ban, and so as not to punish individuals, the International Olympic Committee is allowing the Russian athletes to take part in Tokyo in a different way. Together they compete under the banner of the ‘Russian Olympic Committee’.

Though athletes still wear the Russian colours of white, blue and red, they are prohibited from other displays of national representation. And this includes Russia’s national anthem, ‘Rossiya – svyashchennaya nasha derzhava’.

So, with the thunderous Russian national anthem not an option for medal ceremonies, organisers have called in assistance from the greatest Russian composer of all, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

When those athletes win gold at Toyko, like the women’s 10m air pistol’s Vitalina Batsarashkina and the ROC women’s team gymnastics, the epic opening to Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 proudly scores the podium ceremony.

And it’s fair to say that gold-standard Tchaikovsky is going down well with the punters at home...

Tchokyo 2020, anyone?

And if that’s all got you in the mood for some powerful Russian chords on the piano, here’s Evgeny Kissin playing Rachmaninov, and perhaps an option for those Beijing Olympics of 2022.