Carlsen, 23, was photographed wearing a T-shirt with the 1992 Lithuanian Olympic basketball pattern for an interview with Norway‘s major daily Verdens Gang, to the amusement of everyone who recognized it, including many in Norway’s sizeable Lithuanian community.
The yellow, green and red T-shirt bears an eye-grabbing picture of basketball-playing skeleton. It was designed for the Lithuanian national men’s basketball team’s appearance in 1992 Summer Olympics, where it won Bronze, giving a major boost to the newly-independent nation’s self-confidence.
Even more poignantly, Carslen wore the T-shirt during the World Chess Championship which was held in Sochi, Russia, this November.
For many in Lithuania, the basketball-playing skeleton T-shirt refers to a crucial time in the country’s history, when Lithuania, having just declared independence from the Soviet Union and survived punishing economic sanctions from Russia, was struggling to establish itself in the eyes of the world. Basketball victories, especially bronze in 1992 Barcelona Olympics, were therefore landmark moments.
World champ Magnus Carlsen arrived to Sochi for ’14 World Chess Ch’ship wearing Lithuanian dunking skeleton t-shirt. pic.twitter.com/hgsKQc8pBf
— Simonas Baranauskas (@LithuaniaBasket) November 7, 2014
The T-shirt, worn by Lithuanian players and fans in Barcelona, did not fail to attract attention. It was even featured in an episode of US hit sitcom Friends.
As Russia is once again trying to assert its dominance in Eastern Europe, raising serious security concerns in Lithuania and the Baltics, could Carlsen’s outfit be intended as a message of solidarity?