Yes, it’s time once again for the Summer Olympics in just a few weeks, with coverage and hype already operating at full bore. Having previously looked at failed Olympic candidate cities, the performances of now-defunct nations at the games, and the all-time least-successful countries in Olympic country, here are a few more notes heading into the games, including a note on the newest ex-country at the Olympics.
-There will be athletes from 204 National Olympic Committees, tying the record set at the 2008 games in Beijing. Rejoining the games after not fielding a team in 2008 is Brunei, while the Netherlands Antilles will not be present for the first time since 1956 (see below).
-With the games being held in the United Kingdom, athletes will march in the opening ceremony’s Parade of Nations alphabetically according to their country’s name in English following traditional parade leader Greece, which means that Afghanistan will be the first country to follow Greece into London’s new Olympic Stadium. The previous Olympics in Vancouver in 2010 saw Albania march second as Afghanistan did not enter any athletes in the Winter Games. In 2008 in Beijing, countries marched into the stadium according to Chinese script, which meant that Guinea followed Greece into the stadium. Other recent parade leaders following Greece include Albania (2006, Turin and 2000, Sydney), Saint Lucia (2004, Athens), and Andorra (2002, Salt Lake City).
-After lobbying from the IOC, Qatar, Brunei, and Saudi Arabia will finally enter female athletes at the Olympics. Saudi Arabia, the final holdout, announced this week that Saudi women would be permitted to enter. Considering that even physical education for girls is banned in the country, this is a monumental and long overdue change. With barely three weeks for Saudi female athletes to reach qualifying standards for their respective events, whether any women will actually compete for Saudi Arabia is still up in the air.
-Not competing at all at the Olympics, at least officially, is Kuwait, whose Kuwait Olympic Committee (KOC) was suspended by the International Olympic Committee in April 2010 due to Kuwait’s failure to strike down laws permitting government inference in the election of KOC members. While the KOC is suspended from the Olympic movement, it cannot participate in any Olympic meetings and cannot receive any IOC funding. Its athletes, including the country’s second-ever female Olympian, Mariam Erzouqi, will be allowed to participate at the game while Kuwait is suspended (initially they had been banned outright), but it will be under the Olympic flag as Independent OIympic Athletes rather than as Kuwait. (UPDATE: The suspension has been lifted as of 14 July.)
-Also competing as Independent Olympic Participants (note the difference in terminology) will be athletes from the former Netherlands Antilles. Following the October 2010 dissolution of the Antilles, the membership of the Netherlands Antilles Olympic Committee was revoked by the IOC as none of the five new constituent countries and territories formed by the break-up constituted a sovereign state. In 1996, the IOC changed its charter to no longer allow dependent territories to be recognised in the Olympics; all athletes must instead compete for the parent state (in the Antilles’ case, either the Netherlands or Aruba). National Olympic Committees for dependent territories existing prior to 1996 (such as Hong Kong, Puerto Rico, and Aruba) were grandfathered in, as had been the Antilles, and so will continue to compete at the Olympics as long as their statuses do not change. The permission for Antillean athletes to compete separately from the Dutch and Aruban teams is for this Olympiad only; all Antillean athletes will have to declare a new affiliation with either the Netherlands or Aruba for the next edition.
-Similar ‘Independent’ teams have competed at the 1992 Summer Games (the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia had been internationally sanctioned by the UN and so was not technically allowed to enter a team; Macedonian athletes also competed under this banner but only because the Republic of Macedonia’s National Olympic Committee had not yet been formed) and in 2000 (four athletes from the transitioning-to-independence East Timor). The most famous is the 1992 Unified Team, the temporary team composed of athletes from the non-Baltic republics of the former Soviet Union, whose December 1991 break-up left the resulting new countries with little time to organise new National Olympic Committees. Athletes who competed for the Unified Team at the 1992 Winter Games heard the Olympic Hymn when winning gold, and the Olympic flag was raised for Unified Team medalists. By the 1992 Summer Games, each of the new countries now had a National Olympic Committee, but a joint team was still fielded due to the short timeframe. At those games, the flag of the medalist’s country was raised rather than the Olympic flag, and a gold medalist’s national anthem was played rather than the Olympic Hymn.
-With the next Summer Olympics in 2016 having been awarded to Rio de Janeiro, the bidding for the 2020 Games is down to three candidate cities: Madrid (which has previously mounted failed bids for the games in 1972, 2012, and 2016), Tokyo (previously the 1964 host), and perennial 21st-century bridesmaid Istanbul (rejected in 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012).
Daily Times (2012). Olympics 2012: Rifle passion drives female Kuwaiti shooter. 31 May 2012. Available at http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012�531story_31-5-2012_pg2_4. Accessed 29 June 2012.
International Olympic Committee (2010). The IOC suspends the NOC of Kuwait. 1 April 2010. Available at http://www.olympic.org/content/news/media-resources/manual-news/2010/011/the-ioc-suspends-the-noc-of-kuwait/. Accessed 29 June 2012.
Netherlands Antilles Olympic Committee (2011). IOC dims Olympic Flame of 61 year old Olympic Committee of the Netherlands Antilles. 5 July 2011. Available at http://www.naoc.info/ioc-dims-olympic-flame-of-61-year-old-olympic-committee-of-the-netherlands-antilles/. Accessed 29 June 2012.
Reuters (2012). Saudi Women To Enter Olympics. Gulf Business, 26 June 2012. Available at http://www.gulfbusiness.com/saudi-women-enter-olympics. Accessed 29 June 2012.