Tokyo 2020 National Teams With Interesting Storylines

This buildup to the Tokyo 2020 (2021*) Games has been nothing like anything we have seen before. With all that has happened surrounding Covid-19, this is really unprecedented. However, while the pandemic and the subsequent delay is of course the biggest story, there are many that have flown under the radar to the general public. Here is some important news regarding some of the national teams surrounding the Tokyo 2020 Games.


Probably the most publicized and apparent is the situation regarding Russia’s national team. As you may have heard the Russian national team is currently serving a suspension of two years, that will bar the country from fielding national teams at international competitions. This was originally set for four years, but was ultimately reduced to just two, ending December 16th, 2022 after the Beijing Winter Olympics. This is of course due to the various doping violations that was found to be rampant on the national team.

Russian models display the ROC’s uniforms for Tokyo 2020. ©PAVEL GOLOVKIN/AP

If this seems unfair to those who competed fairly, don`t worry, as Russian athletes can still compete, just not under a different team name. They are also supposedly using a a relatively neutral flag and uniform, along with Tchaikovsky`s Piano Concerto №1 in lieu of the national anthem.

The team name and flag was given the ok on February 19th, and will officially be the acronym “ROC”, short for Russian Olympic Committee. Some have criticized that the name and the uniforms are far too similar to that of previous games, citing that their is no real punishment. Despite these complaints from some, it seems unlikely the IOC or Tokyo Organizers will do anything about this.


Due to the recent coup in Myanmar that was orchestrate by the country’s military, a prominent figure in the national swim team has decided to take a stand. Win Htet Oo, a free-style swimmer made an announcement on his Facebook page, saying he would not represent his country when the military has taken it by deadly force. As of late April, roughly 750 people have been killed in protests against what the military has done. He then asked for others to consider to also stand up for the people of Myanmar and asked organizers to do the right thing.

Photo via Win Htet Oo’s Facebook page.

While the IOC is seemingly set to ban all protest and kneeling at Tokyo 2020, this method of dropping out is still a clear way that a message can be sent to organizers. Considering Win Htet Oo is only 26 and in the prime of career, it shows you that he is willing to sacrifice his own potential success for his cause. It will be interesting to see if others follow suit, or if the governing bodies of the Tokyo 2020 Games acknowledge the travesties that are taking place.

North Korea

This is no surprise given the animosity between the two countries from a historical context. If you aren’t familiar with the root of the tension, Korea was under occupation of Japan from 1910 to 1945. This has naturally caused a rift between the two countries ever since. With then the further divide of Korea, between north and south, the friction still remains, especially with the former. This resentment is ever present, and with one of the most notable events displaying this as of late was when North Korea conducted missile tests in 2017, where two were flown over the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.

North Korean athletes at the 2018 Olympic Games. ©Reuters. Photo via :

The announcement came on April 6th and was quickly addressed by Tokyo organizers. It’s really too bad that this was the ultimate outcome, especially with Japan attending the previous games held in South Korea in 2018. However, this decision should be met with a level of understanding considering the sensitivity surrounding the history. Hopefully in the not too distant future things can improve between the two countries.

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A writer living in Japan. Creating articles about the 2020 Tokyo Games. A regular contributor to Junkture Magazine.