In April this year, Russian athletes were banned from competing at international events — including the Olympics — until 2022, following a ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) late last year.
The ban is retribution for when the country provided global anti-doping authorities with manipulated laboratory data that could have helped identify drug cheats.
As a result, Russian athletes will compete under the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) and cannot display their country's name alone on uniforms, use their anthem, or display its national flag.
Originally, Russia's first choice of anthem replacement was the patriotic folk song "Katyusha." But CAS did not approve it as the team could not use "any anthem linked to Russia."
Instead, the piano concerto was decided upon, despite it being by a Russian composer. Stanislav Pozdnyakov, President of ROC, stated that Tchaikovsky's work was part of the world's musical heritage, and that the piece had been used at competitions run by the International Skating Union.
"We have the flag of the Russian Olympic Committee — easily recognizable for both our compatriots and fans from other countries — without any inscriptions," said Pozdnyakov. "And now we have a musical accompaniment."
The concerto was played last week at the Tokyo Games when ROC shooter Vitalina Batsarashkina stood on the podium to celebrate her gold medal in the women's 10-meter pistol event, and when Evgeny Rylov won gold in the men’s 100-meter backstroke.
To listen to the Olympic version of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1, click here.