Too many countries abusing Olympics naturalization

By Jonathan White Source:Global Times Published: 2016/8/16 23:48:40

If you had the pleasure - or perhaps misfortune - depending on your national ­affiliations, to listen to BBC Radio Two ­during the last few days, you might have been swept up in a wave of optimism thanks to the Olympics. The pinnacle of this was on Jeremy Vine's show, where members of the Great British public were calling in saying how great it was to be British.

Great Britain has had a superb Olympics, there's no getting away from that.. It's brought an unexpected return of medals so far. And it has been nice for a public so recently divided almost down the middle about the country's participation in the ­European Union to be able to put that aside and get behind the athletes. And that's not to mention England's performance in the European Championships.

The Olympics is the ideal time for countries to come together and put their troubles to one side. Jamaica can get behind its sprinters, the US can get behind its, well, pretty much everyone and Brazil can get behind their pole-vaulter - as they did on Monday night when Thiago da Silva took gold.

China is reported to be unhappy with the number of medals it is on course to bring back from Rio. In some ways, you can understand why the Chinese are upset. They had impressed at home in 2008 and London four years ago, and expected to do even better this summer but they have still had much to cheer and plenty of athletes to get behind.

One thing that Chinese fans can't have issue with is that they are cheering on Chinese athletes. While many other countries are importing potential medal winners to help them get on the roster, that is not an accusation you can level at Team China.

Qatar's handball team is the most ­obvious example at Rio. So few Qataris make up the squad of their veritable league of nations that they have been ­accused of trying to buy a medal. Bahrain's first-ever medal, which was won earlier this week, came courtesy of teenager Ruth Jebet, who changed her allegiance from her native ­Kenya. There are more.

It happens all the time at the Olympics. The "plastic Brits" - as the naturalized athletes in Team GB were known - of London 2012 were one notable example. China itself has provided many of the table tennis players representing other countries this summer, while a quarter of those representing other flags four years ago were native Chinese.

There's a natural element to people representing countries other than that of their birth. Plenty of people represent where they were brought up after their parents moved; many others choose to compete for the ­nations of their parents and grandparents. And then there's marriage, politics and the dissolution of countries like the Soviet Union to contend with.

But naturalization for medals is none of those things. It's tantamount to cheating, and it should either be outlawed as such, or we should go one step further and get rid of nationalities at the Olympics altogether.

The author is a Shanghai-based freelance writer.

Posted in: Olympics, Extra Time

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