Olympics: Defiant Russia raises flag at Athlete Village

A Russian flag is displayed at the Rio 2016 Olympic Village for Athletes on July 25 in Rio de Janeiro.
A Russian flag is displayed at the Rio 2016 Olympic Village for Athletes on July 25 in Rio de Janeiro.PHOTO: AFP

RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) - Russian Olympians turned out in force to see their flag raised over the Athletes' Village in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday in a show of defiance.

Numerous Russian sports stars, including their entire track and field squad, have been barred from the Games in Rio due to a string of damaging doping scandals.

But for tennis player Svetlana Kuznetsova, a two-time Grand Slam winner, it was vital for those allowed to compete to show their commitment to the cause by making their presence in the village - and in front of the world's media - highly visible.

"It's very sad that so many top athletes cannot be here with us because we're a big country," she said at the Russian welcome ceremony in the Olympic Village.

Whereas other major nations sent a small contingent for their ceremonies, the entire team of the embattled European powerhouse were present.

"It's important for us to see our flag raised in the village," added Kuznetsova, the US Open champion in 2004 and Roland Garros winner in 2009. "We're here to give a boost to our country at this important time."

More than 100 sportsmen and women who were part of the original Russian team have been blocked from taking part in Rio.

Earlier on Wednesday, an International Olympic Committee spokesman said the final list of Russian athletes - expected to be about 270 out of an original 387 - is close to being fixed.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport has received what it described as a record number of cases this week, mostly from Russians contesting their bans from the Olympics.