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Russia wants Tchaikovsky music for anthem at Tokyo Olympics

MOSCOW—Russia wants to use music by 19th-century composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky as its replacement anthem for the Tokyo Olympics, the president of the country’s Olympic committee said Thursday.

Russia’s team name, flag and national anthem were banned for two years from the Olympics and world championships in December.

Russian Olympic Committee President Stanislav Pozdnyakov said officials had already discussed the Tchaikovsky excerpt with the International Olympic Committee and are waiting for approval. The same music was used at some speedskating events this year. In most other sports which have held world championship events, the competition organizers’ anthems were used, rather than any Russian music.

“We have found a compromise for all the parties. We hope that the International Olympic Committee will accept our proposal in the short term,” Pozdnyakov said.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport this month blocked Russia’s first choice for the Olympics, the patriotic folk song “Katyusha.” It cited a provision in the December ruling that the team couldn’t use “any anthem linked to Russia.”

However, CAS hasn’t fully clarified what that means in practice—whether it will block any other music by Russian composers, or whether Russian officials should be allowed to choose at all. Pozdnyakov said that while Tchaikovsky was a Russian, his music should be considered “part of the world’s musical legacy.”

The Russian team in Tokyo will be officially known as “ROC,” and will use the flag of the country’s Olympic committee rather than the national tricolor.

Airbnb Inc., meanwhile, was asked to drop its sponsorship connections to next year’s Beijing’s Winter Olympics by a coalition of 150 human-rights campaigners.

The coalition is headed by groups that oppose rights violations in China including the detention of Muslim Uyghurs in the Xinjiang region.

Airbnb is one of the International Olympic Committee’s leading 15 sponsors. Included in the group are companies like Coca-Cola, Samsung, Visa, Toyota, Alibaba, Panasonic, Intel, and Procter and Gamble.

Airbnb, the home-sharing business, is being targeted because of repeated claims about the “social responsibility” it practices in its business model.

The Beijing Winter Olympics open on February 4, 2022.

Associated Press received the open letter sent on Tuesday to Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky. The letter argues that Airbnb is trying to drive tourism in China at the expense of Uyghurs and Tibetans who cannot travel freely in the country.

“Airbnb is also glossing over China’s horrifying human rights record and normalizing to the public what is recognized under international law as a deeply restrictive environment,” the letter said. “Airbnb should not be encouraging a wider tourist industry to be supported and allowed to flourish at the expense of Uyghur and Tibetan rights.”

The top 15 sponsors paid the IOC about $1 billion in cash or services in the last complete, four-year Olympic cycle, to be associated with the games. Airbnb signed up in November of 2019.

Rights groups are trying to pressure IOC sponsors and are pushing for a diplomatic boycott of the games — or even a hard boycott—to call attention to alleged abuses against Uyghurs, Tibetans, and residents of Hong Kong.

China says “political motives” underlie the boycott effort. The Chinese describe the detention camps in Xinjiang as vocational centers.

“China firmly rejects the politicization of sports and opposes using human rights issues to interfere in other countries’ internal affairs,” foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said earlier this month. He said an effort at a boycott “is doomed to failure.”

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