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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Non-National Competitors in the Olympics

Peter Spiro over at Opinio Juris (one of my favorite blogs) has a a fascinating piece about Olympic athletes who are participating in the games under no flag whatsoever.  They are called Independent Olympic Athletes (IOA):

What Will the Medal Count Be for “None of the Above”: Olympics Allows Non-National Competitors

These are athletes who, for diverse reasons, are not affiliated with any nation-state.  If one win a medal, no anthem will be played and no national flag flown.

How common is this?  Not very but it's not unheard of either.  Spiro says that over 50 of these IOA's competed in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics (mostly from Yugoslavia) and there have been others from places like The Netherland Antilles, East Timor and Kuwait.

This year there is Guor Marial, a refugee from South Sudan and permanent resident (but not citizen) of the United States.  He may not have a passport from either his home or host country but in his mind he will be running for his home region, South Sudan.
"The voice of South Sudan has been heard,'' Marial told The Associated Press from his home in Flagtaff, Ariz. "The South Sudan has finally got a spot in the world community. Even though I will not carry their flag in this Olympic Games, the country itself is there.
"The dream has come true. The hope of South Sudan is alive.''

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