Monday, October 2, 2023

Australian Open 2023: Russia, Belarus flags banned at Melbourne Park amid ongoing crisis in Ukraine

Australian Open Getty Russian Flag Russia
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Flags of Russia and Belarus won’t be permitted at the Australian Open going forward. This comes after multiple flags were brought into the stands at Melbourne Park during Day 1 of the Grand Slam tournament.

Traditionally, country flags are allowed to be displayed during all of the matches at the Australian Open. However, Tennis Australia altered that policy for Russia and Belarus after those countries invaded Ukraine last year.

“Our initial policy was that fans could bring [flags] in but could not use them to cause disruption,” Tennis Australia said in a statement on Tuesday. “Yesterday we had an incident where a flag was placed courtside. We will continue to work with the players and our fans to ensure that this is the best possible environment to enjoy the tennis.”

One Russian flag could be seen during Ukrainian competitor Kateryna Baindl’s match against Russian player Kamilla Rakhimova during first round play on Monday. In addition, Russian star Daniil Medvedev was offered a Russian flag to autograph following his 6-0, 6-1, 6-2 win over Marcos Giron on Monday evening.

Belarusian player Aryna Sabalenka was asked about the new flag policy following his first round match. Sabalenka stated that she wished that sports and politics would be separate matters, but understood why the decision was made.

“I mean, if everyone feels better this way, then it’s OK,” Sabalenka said. “I have zero control on it. What can I say? They did it. OK. No flags? No flags.”

Russian and Belarusian athletes, including Sabalenka, were banned from competing at Wimbledon and other events such as the Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup in 2022 due to the war in Ukraine. Since then, Russian and Belarusian players have been permitted to enter the other Grand Slam tournaments as “neutral” competitors, so that their nationalities aren’t mentioned in any official results.

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