FanDuel - WFBC

July 27, 2012

For the Glory of Your Country, er, Countries: Some of the Olympic athletes competing in these Games became citizens of their country as recently as 10 days ago. "Citizenship, an institution steeped in notions of equality, identity, loyalty, perhaps even sacrifice, is being turned into a recruitment tool used to bolster a nationís standing relative to its competitors," writes Ayelet Shachar, one of six people debating the subject on the New York Times website. Triple jumper Yamile Aldama is competing in her third Olympics for her third country. She was Cuban in 2000, Sudanese in 2004 and is British today.

posted by rcade to olympics at 07:14 PM - 13 comments

Wonder why Larry Brown never latched onto this. He could be coaching his twelfth different national basketball team this year.

posted by beaverboard at 08:48 PM on July 27

Is this really the point? That there is some purity test that should be passed? I don't think the Olympic spirit is measured by nationality first, above other factors.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 10:20 PM on July 27

It's not, but the athletes take pride in performing for their countries.

In Aldama's case, I looked at her history on Wikipedia ... seems semi-legitimate: born in Cuba, moved to Great Britain after she got married. The problem came when she couldn't get citizenship for the 2004 Games, then "Aldama instead sought a new country to represent, and after offers from Spain, Italy, and the Czech Republic she instead switched to Sudan." She has had a good career, but this part makes her seem like a mercenary.

I think FIFA has a rule where if a player plays a full international match (not B/C level or under-age) with a national team, he or she is locked into that nation. Either go this way or allow one move based on new residency.

posted by jjzucal at 12:07 AM on July 28

Here in Cambodia, the national Olympic committee decided to give one of the six places on the team to a Japanese "comedian"* who had applied for citizenship and who was capable of a marathon time ten minutes slower than the Cambodian champion. Who had run an A-qualifier and wasn't picked in the team. The only Cambodian who has ever run an A-qualifier, too.

Fortunately the IOC refused to accept the nomination. But he will be eligible in another year.

*I believe from my Japanese friends that he's not even remotely funny. He also "sponsors" the national Olympic committee. They seem to be driving around in brand new Lexuses. That might explain something.

posted by owlhouse at 03:27 AM on July 28

Is this really the point? That there is some purity test that should be passed?

Given that the Olympics is a competition of nations as much as individuals, it's ridiculous to have someone under a flag who's been a citizen for shorter than the duration of the games.

posted by rcade at 10:50 AM on July 28

What about a month? A year? This is a nation of immigrants and the world is getting smaller.

And the Olympics is a competition of individuals who represent nations.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 11:04 AM on July 28

We saw this in Beijing, where Georgia bought themselves a handful of Brazilian beach volleyball players; Gulf states have been offering funding in exchange for citizenship to African distance runners for a while. The US fast-tracked citizenship for a Canadian pairs skater for the winter games.

Federations for sports with relatively limited geographical support bases seem more accommodating of such things.

posted by etagloh at 02:27 PM on July 28

What about a month? A year?

I think a year ought to be the minimum.

posted by rcade at 03:51 PM on July 28

owlhouse's bizarre-but-true anecdote aside, I'm not entirely sure who is harmed by this. I mean, yeah, I understand that at least in theory, authentic Dubai-ian athletes are being edged out by imported Kenyans. But I'm not sure that the Olympics, even the modern Olympics, was ever supposed to be about nation vs. nation, and even if you buy that, I'm a lot less sure that establishing some arbitrary length of time of citizenship would make the Olympics into a nation vs. nation competition. For that to happen, the composition of national teams would be determined by citizenship (of whatever duration you establish), and then purely by merit. But all you have to do is read the fine print on the "national" federations that determine the composition of the "national" teams in various sports, to realize that that ain't happenin' any time soon.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 05:56 PM on July 28

I think a year ought to be the minimum.

What if you applied for citizenship a year ago, but it took that long for the paperwork to get through? Would that be enough?

posted by grum@work at 06:23 PM on July 28

But I'm not sure that the Olympics, even the modern Olympics, was ever supposed to be about nation vs. nation

I must have missed this, only being alive for the past 9.

posted by yerfatma at 06:28 PM on July 28

But I'm not sure that the Olympics, even the modern Olympics, was ever supposed to be about nation vs. nation ...

The procession of nations in the opening ceremony, medal presentations with anthems, reporting of medals won by nation and team sports all make it a national competition. I've never thought of it any other way.

posted by rcade at 09:44 AM on July 29

And the fact that you need special dispensation if you're not sponsored by an IOC-recognized nation (speaking of which, I want to party with those Netherlands Antilles people).

posted by Etrigan at 11:15 AM on July 29

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