MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia welcomed home its Olympic medallists from the Tokyo Games with pomp on Monday, hosting celebrations on Moscow’s Red Square after the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) clinched its highest number of medals since the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Russians competed at the Tokyo Olympics as representatives of the ROC without their flag and anthem because of doping sanctions against the country.
Russian gold medallists were serenaded with music from composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky and wrapped themselves in a white flag with ROC’s emblem – three flames in the colours of the Russian flag with the Olympic rings below.
The ROC declared the Games a success after its athletes won a total of 71 medals, including 20 golds.
To make up for its absence in Tokyo, the country’s anthem was played over Red Square as athletes celebrated their victories and the Olympians were driven across Moscow in open top buses.
“Every athlete in our delegation is a hero,” Russian Olympic Committee President Stanislav Pozdnyakov, a former Olympic fencer, said from a stage set up on Red Square.
“Even those who were not able to win a medal exerted themselves to the maximum to contribute to the team.”
Russian successes at the Games included male gymnasts winning gold in the team event for the first time since 1996, swimmer Evgeny Rylov’s two golds in the 100 and 200 metres backstroke and high jumper Maria Lasitskene’s Olympic title at her first Games.
(Reporting by Evgenia Novozhenina and Dmitry Madorsky; Writing by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Editing by Ed Osmond)