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Thread: Athletes changing citizenship

  1. #1

    Default Athletes changing citizenship

    So, last night I was watching a Basketball match between Nigeria and the Dominican Republic with the last berth in the London Olympics at stake. From the commentaries I gathered that many of the Nigerian athletes on the team where also Americans. After doing a little bit of research I learned that no less than half of the Nigerian Basketball team that will be going to London was born and raised in the United States, mostly in the south. This was after seeing that the best player on the Macedonian team is a fellow by the name of Bo McCalebb who, as far as I can tell, has never actually lived in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (yes, that's the country's real name, because Greece essentially claims to have a copyright on the name "Macedonia").

    This isn't an isolated. Random related examples:
    • The US women's Football starting eleven contains a Canadian, while the Canadian women's Football starting eleven contains an American. Seriously.
    • Four of the eight men's short track speed skating teams in the 2010 Olympics contained at least one Canadian: Italy, Germany, the United States... and Canada.
    • Three time Olympic gold medallist Ahn Hyun-Soo recently changed his nationality from South Korean to Russian (and his name to Viktor Ahn) due to a quarrel with the South Korean skating federation.
    • Ice dancers Cathy and Chris Reed compete for their mother's country, Japan, since they where not able to make the American figure skating team. Their younger sister, Allison Reed, competes for Georgia (the country, not the state ).
    • After failing to qualify for the US track and field team in 2008, Tiffany Porter decided to represent her mother's country, Great Britain. She will be competing at the London 2012 games for the home team.
    • Canadian Owen Hargreaves played for England, his father's country, at the 2006 World Cup despite never having lived anywhere in Great Britain.


    So, questions for you all:
    How do you feel about people switching national allegiance in international competitions because they don't want to or don't think they can represent the country of their birth?

  2. #2

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    It's a complicated subject, I'm not sure I believe in any hard and fast rules.
    Immigration means that growing up people have loyalties to more than one state, especially when it comes to sport - you grow up supporting the team your parents / your dad supports not your "local" team. There are also occasions when you can't easily play your chosen sport in your home country, either because it's not well developed, or there's some discrimination stopping you. Two reasons why you might choose to represent a country other than the one you were born in that most people I think would accept.

    Sometimes it's just cynically because it lets the athlete qualify when they normally wouldn't, but it can be hard to write rules that don't stand in the way of people who have "acceptable" reasons to switch nationalities. See also The Games - Immigration - YouTube

  3. #3

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    The country thing kind of gets in the way of pure competition. While I'm a little disturbed by someone moving to a little pond to be a big fish, when it comes to the Olympics, I say bring it. No one wants to be declared Olympic champion when they know their best challenger couldn't be there because of a border issue or some other such nonsense.

  4. #4

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    Can you imagine being an American or Canadian, etc, winning as a Nigerian and standing on the center podium, listening to the Nigerian national anthem. Perhaps that would be it's own punishment!

  5. #5

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    Well Owen Hargreaves has always represented England for soccer and never Canada. You have a choice of where you want to play international soccer if you have options.

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by DeathcoreFTW View Post
    Well Owen Hargreaves has always represented England for soccer and never Canada. You have a choice of where you want to play international soccer if you have options.
    The way it works with Soccer is that once you get capped for a senior side, you're bound to that country unless the country ceases to exist (like what happened with Serbia and Montenegro).

    Though they recently changed the rules to only make senior caps binding, so (hopeless Canadian soccer fan mode activated) there is still hope that Jonathan de Guzman will join his older (and less talented D: ) brother on the national team since his caps for the Netherlands at the Beijing Olympics no longer bind him to playing for the Netherlands. Ultimately Hargreaves was eligible to play for three different teams (Canada, England and Wales) before making his choice, but it doesn't change the fact that before 2007 he had never lived in England.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by dogboy View Post
    Can you imagine being an American or Canadian, etc, winning as a Nigerian and standing on the center podium, listening to the Nigerian national anthem. Perhaps that would be it's own punishment!
    There's an Eddie Izzard joke: British athletes don't win medals at the Olympics because they've chosen not to, because we hate our national anthem.

  8. #8
    Peachy

    Default

    I think changing nationality is less of an issue in sports where you're essentially competing just for yourself. At the end of the day, it's not Canada, the U.S. or Burkina Faso that won a gold medal in ice skating, but the individual athlete. It's their name that counts, whether it's John Smith or Ching Chong or Victor Rachmaninov...who cares? Most spots in international competitions are simply distributed via each nation's sports organization for simple convenience. So, say, Canada gets X spots oon competition Y, so naturally, all people having any ties to Canada will compete for those X spots. I can't blame athletes who don't quite make it in their own nation to look for alternatives. As long as there's a reasonable tie to the country they wish to start for (like one of their parents are from there; I wouldn't consider the fact that your grandmother once owned a German guide dog a good enough reason for someone to turn to Germany for getting a spot on our team). The only downside I can see is this: If, say, Uzbekistan has 5 spots for the Olympics and suddenly 5 people from western Europe come rushing in to snatch them up, the locals will never have a chance to make it to any international tournaments.

    Peachy

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Near View Post
    So, questions for you all:
    How do you feel about people switching national allegiance in international competitions because they don't want to or don't think they can represent the country of their birth?
    I consider nationality to be nothing more than something that some third-party organisation (the government claiming jurisdiction over the patch of land you inhabit) has decided and told you that you are... They could tell me I was a four-headed dolphin and I still wouldn't listen to them.

    As for whether or not it practically matters... Almost no one watching the Olympics will know the competitors (or anything much about them), so I can't see that it would make any difference... But that's just me!

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Near View Post
    So, questions for you all:
    How do you feel about people switching national allegiance in international competitions because they don't want to or don't think they can represent the country of their birth?
    I don't think it's about that at all.

    For instance, in the civilized world, dual-citizenship is recognized. Frankly, if you've the responsibilities of both nations, then so, too, must you be afforded those benefits of both that do not conflict. And I believe naming the flag under which you run, jump, dive, swim, or box well within your rights as a citizen of the country.

    If residency is not a requirement of citizenship, then individuals--including athletes--who have never lived in a country may still be citizens.

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