Mega mix-up: Paralympics play wrong national anthem at medal ceremony

Tokyo, Japan - It was a mix-up of epic proportions, that just happened to play out, quite literally, on an international stage.

During an award ceremony for Paralympic cyclist Mikhail Astashov, Tokyo organizers made an epic mistake (stock image). .
During an award ceremony for Paralympic cyclist Mikhail Astashov, Tokyo organizers made an epic mistake (stock image). .  © 123RF/ james63

During the medal ceremony for Russian Paralympic cycling champion Mikhail Astashov, Tokyo Paralympic organizers made a grave mistake.

Instead of playing the anthem of the Russian Paralympic Committee, the anthem of the International Paralympic Committee was played instead.

"It was purely an operator error," Tokyo 2020 spokesperson Masa Takaya said on Friday, apologizing for the mishap.

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Immediately after the wrong anthem was played, he said, they apologized to the athlete and asked him to step onto the podium again.

The 32-year-old accepted, and afterwards, the correct anthem was played.

Astashov won the gold medal in the 3000-meter cycling pursuit race on Thursday in world-record breaking time.

Despite sanctions placed on Russia because of state doping, the country was allowed to send 241 athletes to the Paralympics this year, but only as a team competing as the Russian Paralympic Committee.

The anthem for the team is Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto, in lieu of the Russian national anthem. The team originally wanted the folk song Katyusha to be used, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) rejected the suggestion for being too closely associated with Russia, according to Inside the Games.

Astashov worked as a food delivery person to save up the over $5,000 he would need to be able to participate in the Games. His efforts drew international attention and scrutiny as to why Russia wasn't better supporting its athletes.

The Moscow Times reported that although Astashov is a world paratriathlon champion, local sports officials didn't offer him any financial help to be able to compete in Tokyo.

Cover photo: 123RF/ james63

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