Ukraine team introduced as Russian in 'operational' Olympic gaffe

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Ukraine's Marta Fiedina and Anastasiya Savchuk looked stunned after being introduced as Russians. Pic: Getty
Ukraine's Marta Fiedina and Anastasiya Savchuk looked stunned after being introduced as Russians. Pic: Getty

Olympic organisers have been forced to apologise over a shocking mistake at the Tokyo Games that saw a team from Ukraine introduced as competitors from Russia.

Ukrainian artistic swimmers Marta Fiedina and Anastasiya Savchuk took bronze in the duet competition, but it was an embarrassing gaffe from an announcer that stole the headlines.

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The Ukrainian's had the honour of winning the first medal in the sport in their nation's history but it was somewhat overshadowed by a moment to forget for Olympics organisers.

During their medal ceremony, in which a Russian pair received gold and China silver, the announcer made an unintentionally loaded mistake.

The Ukrainian pair awaited at the podium only to hear the following as the bronze medal was announced in English, Japanese and French: "Médaille de bronze, Russian Olympic Committee ... Sorry, apologies, bronze medal is Ukraine."

Fiedina and Savchuk waited until their actual country was announced before they took the podium, looking more bemused than offended during the awkward seconds as the announcer backtracked.

Tokyo organising committee spokesperson Masa Tanaka issued an apology for the misstep, via the Associated Press.

“It was purely an operational mistake ... Of course, people noticed that and the person in charge of announcements apologised,” Tanaka said through a translator. 

“I also used this opportunity to express my apology to those who are in the Ukrainian team."

The blunder was of course magnified by the fact that Ukraine and Russia have a chequered history, to say the least.

Ukraine and Russia have chequered history 

As far as country mix-ups go, it's hard to get much worse than identifying a group of Ukrainians as Russians. 

Relations between the former Soviet Union countries have been sensitive for years, and escalated to contentious after the Russian annexation of the Crimea peninsula around the time of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.

Russia has maintained military control of the region since its invasion, to the condemnation of the Ukrainian government and many in the Western world. 

On the seventh anniversary of the invitation, United States secretary of state Antony Blinken issued a statement in February bluntly titled “Crimea is Ukraine." 

A referendum in Crimea overwhelmingly chose to join the Russian Federation, but is considered illegitimate by opponents of the annexation.

Seen here, Ukraine's Marta Fiedina and Anastasiya Savchuk compete in the artistic swimming in Tokyo.
Ukraine's Marta Fiedina and Anastasiya Savchuk won bronze in artistic swimming in Tokyo.

Russia still claims the region as part of its territory, to the point that Russian officials complained when the Ukrainian team at Euro 2020 wore a jersey featuring a silhouette of their country that still featured Crimea. 

Tournament organisers allowed the silhouette to remain unchanged, but ordered the removal of a "Glory to the heroes" slogan on the exterior of the jersey.

One particular sore spot regarding the situation may concern the 2022 Winter Olympics, scheduled to take place in Beijing. 

The Ukrainian city of Lviv had submitted a bid to host those Games, but withdrew before the vote due to continuing political and security concerns.

with agencies

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