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Russian Fans Can Fly Flag At Olympics -- But No Politics, Please

Fans hold Russian flags as they watch a skiing competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Fans hold Russian flags as they watch a skiing competition at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

The International Olympic Committee says that Russian sports fans will be allowed to bring their national flag to events at the Winter Olympics in February, but suggested that "organized political" demonstrations would bring further sanctions.

The IOC said on January 25 that its ban on Russian athletes competing with their national symbols cannot apply to ordinary fans.

However, it added, "should this appear to be an organized political demonstration the IOC will take this into consideration in its monitoring system for the implementation" of its decision to ban Russia from the games.

That could mean that, if the guidelines are violated by fans, Russian athletes won't get to march with their national flag at the closing ceremony of the February 9-25 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

In December, the IOC banned Russia from the event, citing its "unprecedented systematic manipulation" of the Olympic anti-doping system.

But it said that some Russians would be allowed to compete in neutral uniforms under the Olympic flag provided they met certain guidelines on doping.

The Lausanne-based organization also said that it may reinstate the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) before the start of the closing ceremony, suggesting that the country's flag could make an appearance in the final hours of the games.

Last week, the IOC said that it had reduced the pool of Russian athletes eligible to potentially compete to 389 from 500, and indicated that a final decision on which Russians may compete could come on January 27.

The Kremlin on January 23 described as "deplorable" indications that six-time Olympic gold medalist Viktor Ahn and other prominent athletes are not in the IOC pool.

But asked whether the Kremlin might consider a boycott, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on January 25, "right now it is important to avoid words like 'boycott.'"

"In any case, we need to continue dialogue with the IOC. We need to talk to the IOC and defend our rights, if this is possible," he also said, adding that it was “most important to keep a sober approach” in the interests of Russian athletes.

With reporting by AP and dpa
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