Olympic organizers apologize after announcing Ukrainian artistic swimming medalists as Russians

Olympic organizers found themselves apologizing after an artistic swimming medal ceremony in which the announcer made an unintentionally loaded mistake.

Ukrainian swimmers Marta Fiedina and Anastasiya Savchuk took bronze in the duet competition, the first medal in the sport in their nation's history. During their medal ceremony, in which a Russian pair received gold and China silver, the two 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 to take the podium, looking more bemused than offended during the awkward seconds as the announcer backtracked.

A day later, Tokyo organizing 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 apologized,” Tanaka said through a translator. “I also used this opportunity to express my apology to those who are in the Ukrainian team."

The issues between Russia and Ukraine

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 invation, 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.

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 organizers 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.

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