Switching Teams: Changing Citizenship to Compete in the Olympic Games

By English, Colleen | Proceedings: International Symposium for Olympic Research, Annual 2010 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Switching Teams: Changing Citizenship to Compete in the Olympic Games

English, Colleen, Proceedings: International Symposium for Olympic Research

At the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver many great accomplishments took the spotlight while countries throughout the world celebrated victory. While tragedy and triumph reigned center stage during the Olympic coverage, one event in particular causes some question over Olympic ideals. In the ice dancing competition, Allison Reed competed. Born in New Jersey, she has lived in the United States her entire life. (1) Along with her brother and sister, Reed began ice dancing at a young age with dreams of becoming an Olympic champion. (2) In 2010, she got that chance, though she competed for the Republic of Georgia. (3) This event raises questions about citizenship and its relationship with eligibility to compete in the Olympic Games. Specifically, should Allison Reed have been allowed to become a Georgian citizen so quickly, solely to compete in the Olympic Games? (4) In this paper, I will argue that this question cannot be answered without first looking at questions more central to the spirit of the Olympics. National identity and the overt displays of nationalism raise interesting questions concerning the role of nationalism in the Games. Also, questions concerning the ongoing issue of amateurism and professionalism can aid in understanding how the International Olympic Committee (IOC) can be expected to act in cases like Allison Reed's. Furthermore, questions concerning personal identity and personal gain must be considered before decisions about changing citizenship can be addressed. This paper intends to show that the issue of changing citizenship to compete in the Olympic Games cannot be answered simply; the question itself causes more fundamental questions about Olympic values to arise, which must be answered before one can decide whether athletes should be allowed to change citizenship for the purpose of competing in the Olympic Games.

Many aspects of the Olympic Games contain displays of nationalism. In the Opening Ceremony, each participating country takes part in a Parade of Nations. Each of these nations walk through the Olympic Stadium, while one chosen athlete carries their country's flag. Behind the flag bearer, the rest of the nation's athletes follow, dressed in outfits meant to represent their home nation. The Opening Ceremony also elicits nationalism from the host country. Sport sociologist John Hargreaves states that the Opening Ceremony has become an event for the host nation to project an image of its national culture to the entire world. (5) Today, the Closing Ceremony represents a similar ideal. Hargreaves also argues that the Award Ceremony is perhaps the greatest display of nationalism at the Olympic Games. (6) When the winners stand atop the podium their nation's banner flies above their heads while the gold medalist's national anthem plays. Overall, the Olympics offer numerous opportunities to display nationalism.

Although the Olympics do allow nationalism, this was not the intended purpose of the Games. In the late 1800s, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Movement, did not intend for the Games to be an arena for nations to prove their greatness. Rather, Coubertin hoped to spread values of internationalism. He wanted to bring the nations of the world together peacefully to share in athletic competitions. Coubertin believed that athletic competitions between nations could foster peace and hoped that the Olympics could celebrate national and cultural differences. (7) He stated:

   Healthy democracy, wise and peaceful internationalism, will
   penetrate the new stadium and preserve within it the cult of
   disinterestedness and honor which will enable athletics to help in
   the tasks of moral education and social peace as well as of
   muscular development. (8)

Coubertin did not intend for the Olympics to become an arena for nationalism and competition between nations to discover which country is greatest. Rather, he hoped to promote international harmony and peace.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Switching Teams: Changing Citizenship to Compete in the Olympic Games


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?