— Published 18 January 2023

The flags of discord

Controversy at the Australian Open in Melbourne (16 to 29 January). The Australian Tennis Federation (Tennis Australia) announced on Tuesday 17 January that Russian and Belarusian flags were banned from the tournament grounds with immediate effect. “Our initial policy was that fans could bring them in but could not use them to cause a disturbance,” the body said. But things have changed since an incident during the match between Ukraine’s Kateryna Baindl and Russia’s Kamilla Rakhimov on Monday 16 January, the first day of the competition. A Russian flag was seen in the stands, provoking outrage from Ukrainian fans, who called for police and security services to intervene. Another Russian flag was waved during the match between Daniil Medvedev and American Marcos Giron. The Ukrainian ambassador to Australia, Vasyl Myroshnychenko, has formally asked Tennis Australia, the tournament organiser, to take action. He urged them to enforce the neutral banner policy for Russian and Belarusian players. The diplomat was heard. But Tennis Australia’s decision has angered Moscow. The Russian embassy in Australia blasted “another example of the unacceptable politicisation of sport”. “In addition to discriminating against Russian players with this ‘neutral banner’ policy, the Australian Federation is now going a step further by ensuring that they cannot receive any visible support from their fans,” it reacted in a statement.