Why Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto is played at the Winter Olympics instead of the Russian National Anthem

4 February 2022, 10:30 | Updated: 4 February 2022, 10:31

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 Summer and Winter Olympics, and Paralympics. So, Russian athletes are hearing Tchaikovsky’s piano concerto when they win.

Have you been catching a great Russian symphonic epic at the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Beijing? That’s because Tchaikovsky is the latest musical star one of the world’s biggest sporting events.

In 2019, Russia was banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency for four years from all international sporting competitions, including the Olympics.

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 has been allowing the Russian athletes to take part in a different way. Together, as they did for Tokyo 2020, 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 Beijing, the epic opening to Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 proudly scores the podium ceremony.

It’s fair to say that at least at Tokyo 2020, gold-standard Tchaikovsky went 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.

Evgeny Kissin plays Rachmaninov's Prelude in C-sharp minor