Are you watching all the Olympic action out of PyeongChang, South Korea, yet? If not, you might want to get yourself in gear, because even though the opening ceremony isn't until Friday, there are already a bunch of exciting and dynamic events going on. For example, a pairs figure skating event is taking place, and a very peculiar group of athletes is taking part. In short, if you find yourself wondering what the OAR Olympics team is, rest assured you haven't lost your mind, because OAR does not refer to a country.
Rather, OAR stands for "Olympic Athlete from Russia," and if that sounds awkward, there's a good reason why. Last year, the International Olympic Committee announced that the Russian Olympic Committee would not be allowed to field teams during the 2018 Games, as punishment for a pervasive and widespread doping scandal that retroactively cost the country multiple gold medals from the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.
As such, Russian athletes competing in PyeongChang are not allowed to wear the colors of their country, and instead must compete under the OAR designation, wearing uniforms bearing the Olympic logo. For many viewers, the figure skating competition will be their first glimpse of the OAR team.
Basically, the OAR designation functions as a massively important compromise position on the part of the IOC. If the committee had decided to outright ban Russia from the Olympics this year, and provide no means for Russian athletes to compete under a different banner, it would have deprived a whole cycle of the country's elite athletes of their Olympic careers.
Obviously, some of this year's OAR athletes may compete in future Olympics. But for those who overcame long odds to manage to qualify for the 2018 Games, or those participating in sports with extremely narrow physical primes, missing out on a once-in-four-years chance to compete would've been a devastating blow.
Fortunately, the IOC avoided the outcome by letting Russian athletes compete under the Olympic banner, meaning you'll be seeing a lot of the OAR team over the next several weeks. As far as figure skating is concerned, the OAR team is comprised of 15 total members, between the individual, mixed, and team events. In total, a whopping 168 Russian athletes will compete in this year's Winter Games, meaning it'll still be one of the biggest teams. The OAR team in Olympic curling already competed on Thursday, losing a curling match to the U.S. team.
If you're interested in following the OAR's journey through this year's Olympics ― and as competitors without an officially recognized country, there is something undeniably very compelling about it all ― you'll want to familiarize yourself with the schedule for all the events in the weeks to come.
On Friday night, NBC will be broadcasting (albeit on tape delay) the opening ceremony from PyeongChang, which will bring yet another chance to get a good look at the OAR team. They'll be marching in the parade of nations, although they won't be carrying the Russian flag, but rather, one bearing the Olympic rings. Based on the expected order of the parade, the OAR team should be marching between Austria and Uganda.
If you're eager to watch the ceremony, it'll be airing at 8 p.m. ET on Friday ― that's 5 p.m PT for all you West Coasters. And even if you can't quite make it to the TV in time, never fear, because you'll have another chance to see all the pageantry immediately afterward. That's because NBC will be airing an encore presentation of the opening ceremony immediately following the initial 8 p.m. ET broadcast. The ceremony is slated for three hours on the broadcast schedule, meaning the encore should be starting at 11 p.m. ET.