Editor's note: Anna Antseliovich heads the sports practice at the Moscow-based legal group Clever Consult. She also works as a senior researcher at the Federal Science Center for Physical Culture and Sport (Russia).
The Olympic Games have always been a source of
genuine interest for spectators as Olympians have repeatedly demonstrated astounding
capacity of the human body and mind in winning Olympic gold, or by achieving
success despite all odds.
At the ancient and even the first modern
Olympic Games, there was no concept of a national team; each Olympian represented
only himself/herself. However, at the 1906 Intercalated Games for
the first time, athletes were nominated by the National Olympic Committees
(‘NOCs’) and competed as members of national teams representing their
respective countries. At the opening ceremony, the athletes walked under the
flags of their countries. This was a major shift, which meant that not only the
athletes themselves competed against each other, but so too did the nations in
unofficial medal standings.
The nomination and selection of athletes by their
NOCs to compete under their national flag and represent their country is a
matter of pride for the vast majority of athletes. However, to what extent does
such a scheme correspond to the ideals which the Olympic Games were based on in
ancient times? Is it possible to separate sport and politics in the modern
Editor’s note: Yann Hafner is a Phd researcher at the University of Neuchâtel specialized
in sports and nationality issues. He is also Legal Affairs Manager at the Fédération
Internationale de Volleyball. Yann is
an editor of the ASSER International Sports Law Blog and has previously
published on the blog on nationality conundrums at the FIFA World Cup 2014 in
Brazil (see here).
This contribution aims to decipher
the relationship between sporting nationality and the Olympic Games. To this
end, the author will first define sporting nationality and discuss athletes’
eligibility in national team in the context of the Olympic Games. Then,
selected issues in relation with sporting nationality and the Olympic Games
(with an emphasis on issues related to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games) will be investigated.