New Flags Raise National Pride of Small Nations at Games Series: ATLANTA 1996

By Ross Atkin, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, July 31, 1996 | Go to article overview

New Flags Raise National Pride of Small Nations at Games Series: ATLANTA 1996


Ross Atkin, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


When Atlanta's Olympic Stadium is filled to its 83,000-seat capacity, almost as many people are watching the track and field competition as live in all of Dominica (pop. 90,000), an island in the east-central Caribbean that is making its Olympic debut in Atlanta.

For an athlete to wear "Dominica" across his chest on the world stage is naturally a thrill. "It's always every athlete's dream to compete at the highest level of whatever sport they are in, and the Olympics are the grand marshall of them all," says triple jumper Jerome Romain. "For me, the most touching thing was the welcome ceremony {at the athletes' village}, when Dominica's flag was being raised and the national anthem being played."

The Olympic movement has used the occasion of these Centennial Games to enlarge its tent, expanding by nine delegations (see chart) that have never been included before, to a total of 197. Most are small island nations, as is Dominica, which was discovered by Christopher Columbus on a Sunday in 1493, thus its name, which means "Sunday." Once a British colony, it gained full independence in 1967.

To learn more about Dominica and its team, this reporter met with the country's delegation at the Olympic Village. Virtually the entire team was present for their first out-of-country interviews of these Games. Five track athletes and chef de mission Felix Wilson, a school principal, answered questions; only swimmer Woodrow Lawrence was absent.

Dominica is without a composition track or an Olympic pool. Lawrence trains in the ocean, which would have made him well suited for the 1896 Games in Greece, where swimmers competed in cold, open waters. …

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