Summary List Placement
Marta Fiedina and Anastasiya Savchuk won bronze in the artistic swimming duet on Wednesday, but as they took to the podium to receive their medals, the French-language medal announcement said they were from the ROC.
The ROC is the umbrella under which Russian athletes are competing in Tokyo as doping sanctions mean the team is not allowed to be referred to as simply Russia.
Organizers were quick to apologize for the mix-up, which they insisted was completely innocent, and not a political statement.
Masa Tanaka, spokesperson for the organizing committee, called it an “operational mistake.”
“The French language calling out should have said Team Ukraine, however it said ROC instead.
“Of course, people noticed and the person in charge of announcements apologized. I also used this opportunity to express my apology to those who are in the Ukrainian team,” he said.
Tokyo Olympics medal announcements are read in French, alongside English and Japanese, as that is the home language of the International Olympic Committee.
The event was won by Russian athletes Svetlana Romashina and Svetlana Kolesnichenko who represented ROC after Russia was banned for four years due to a doping scandal.
Ukraine and Russia in conflict
While organizers said the mix up was an honest mistake, it could easily be misinterpreted given the ongoing tensions between Ukraine and Russia over the Crimean peninsula.
The two countries, which border each other, have been at war since Russia invaded and annexed the Crimea in early 2014, during the Winter Olympics which were being held in Sochi, Russia.
The conflict is ongoing and it is estimated almost 10,000 soldiers combined have died as a result.
Crimea is still internationally recognized as a Ukrainian territory, though Moscow insists it is Russian sovereign territory.
The announcement mix up is not the first involving Ukraine at the Tokyo Olympics. During the opening ceremony of the games, a South Korean TV station displayed an image of Chernobyl, the site of a 1986 nuclear disaster, when Ukraine’s athletes entered the Olympic stadium.
MBC also used a photo of civil unrest to depict Haiti during the ceremony, as well as pictures of national stereotypes to represent other nations, as Insider’s Barnaby Lane reported. It used photos of pizza to represent Italy, sushi for Japan, and salmon when introducing Norway.