So how many Olympic Athletes from Russia, as the contingent is to be called, will march in the opening ceremony on Friday?
The answer: Too many.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport now says it might finish deciding the last-ditch Russian appeals late Thursday night or early Friday morning.
“I think that the timing of all this is ridiculous,” said Lowell Bailey, an American biathlete and a reigning world champion, who added that the I.O.C. should acknowledge that it is partly responsible for this unnecessary chaos.
“I think it did fail clean athletes,” Bailey said.
The I.O.C. had the better part of two years to figure out this puzzle and to decide which Russians — if any — should compete in Pyeongchang. If clean sport were really a priority for the I.O.C., as it so often claims, the organization could have prioritized investigating the accusations that the Russians tampered with the drug testing in Sochi. It could have barred athletes and coaches early, and then slogged through the appeals.
But it didn’t. Instead, the I.O.C. took its time. And now, there’s no time left.
The chance was there to deliver a stern warning to any country that might consider systematic doping: Drug your athletes, or mess with the testing, and your flag will disappear from the Olympics.
Yes, a blanket ban might have hurt some clean Russian athletes, but it would also have been a motivation for future whistle-blowers to come forward. If clean athletes thought they might be barred from the Games for their compatriots’ transgressions, they would be more willing to speak out.
Instead, the Pyeongchang Olympics are left with this: half-measures like missing flags and unplayed anthems, and the full-throated boldness of Russia pushing the I.O.C. to make concessions.
At a news conference on Wednesday, the I.O.C. president, Thomas Bach, did not directly answer questions about the Russians’ recent appeals, or what would happen if they were successful. But he did drop hints of the policy that Olympic officials have held for years: The Olympics are their party, and they will invite the people they want. In this case, competitors from an unwelcome country make up a special category of guests.
“We think we have good arguments, and now that procedure is ongoing,” Bach said of the appeals.
He gave excuses for how long it had taken to figure out the Russian question. He said the I.O.C. needed every second it took to examine the cases properly. He said that was why dozens of these decisions had come down to the last moment.
Nearly 10 Russian biathletes are among the athletes who have filed appeals. That means there is quite a bit at stake for Bailey, who is one of the United States Olympic team’s most outspoken critics of doping.
Bailey said he would be disappointed if the Russians won their appeals. But he also said the I.O.C. had pledged, on a conference call with the panel that decided which Russians to invite to these Games, that there would be no retroactive invitations. Now he can only hope that was true.
“If that changes,” he said, “that’s them going back on their word to me.”
This is the problem with I.O.C. math these days: When the committee said zero retroactive invitations, did it actually mean zero — or did it mean six, or 36, or even more? Using the I.O.C. calculator, it’s hard to tell.
But the Russians here — or, shall we say, the people from Russia here — are feeling confident.
At an Olympics where there weren’t supposed to be any Russians, there is now a giant poster on the wall inside the main office for the team known as the Olympic Athletes from Russia.
In one corner of the poster is the Pyeongchang Olympics logo. In the other corner, an O.A.R. logo.
In the center, there’s a large, empty space. That is where the team expects to keep a tally of its medal haul.
That number, depressingly, almost certainly will not be zero.