A group that included the president of Russia's Communist Party caused a small disturbance on Friday night after it displayed a Soviet banner in the stands of Sochi's Iceberg Skating Palace, The Associated Press reports.
Communist Party president Gennady Zyuganov and others sported a "Soviet Banner of Victory" as medals were being awarded in three short track speedskating events. The banner contained a hammer-and-sickle design and the AP reports it was a replica of the flag that Soviet soldiers raised in Berlin during World War II. Such political displays are forbidden by Olympic rules, which led to arena workers arguing with the men and eventually standing in front of it to block the banner.
From the Associated Press:
The men, including Russian lawmakers Nikolai Kharitonov and Yuri Afonin and Zyuganov spokesman Alexander Yushchenko, held the banner for about 10 minutes before a brief confrontation with arena staffers. It ended with the staffers standing in front of the banner to block its display and the venue manager, Russian speedskating gold medalist Svetlana Bazhanova, intervening and asking again that the banner be taken down.
"They weren't supposed to do that," Sochi 2014 spokeswoman Aleksandra Kosterina said of the men displaying the banner.
Rule 50.3 of the Olympic Charter prohibits "display of any sign, banner, poster, piece of equipment or clothing which could be perceived as any kind of demonstration or propaganda," according to official guidelines provided to national organizing committees.
The Communist Party holds 92 of the 449 seats in Russia's Parliament. President Vladimir Putin is a member of the ruling United Russia Party.
Here's a sequence of the showdown as snapped by AP photographer Vadim Ghirda:
The IOC has held steadfast on its insistence that athletes do not use venues to further any cause other than sport. It denied a request from athletes wanting to wear helmet stickers in honor of the late Canadian skier Sarah Burke and also prevented Ukranian athletes from wearing black armbands after the events in Kiev this past week.
A giant hammer and sickle, however, made an appearance during the Opening Ceremony in a segment that recounted big moments in Russian history.
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