Filed Under: International

Is nation swapping the fastest growing Olympic sport?

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Every Olympics, dozens of athletes represent countries in which they don’t live or train. They’re able to do this because of Rule 41 in the Olympic Charter. The rule creates guidelines for which nations an athlete can represent and how often athletes can change national representation. Some call this practice ‘country-swapping’ or ‘nation-swapping’, but the official term is a ‘transfer of allegiance’.

Athletes with multiple citizenships can choose who they represent in international competition. The United States often sees the most transfers because, unlike many other nations, America recognizes dual citizenship.

Some countries actually seek out athletes with the promise of citizenship. Some athletes choose country representation based on where they’re more likely to make the national team or secure sponsorship deals.

During the Winter Games, many countries are at a disadvantage due to a lack of snow. Some athletes use Rule 41 as a way to make the Olympics to support those countries that wouldn’t otherwise be represented.

SHE’S A GOLD MEDALIST, GAINING ATTENTION ON AND OFF THE SLOPES.  

BORN AND RAISED IN CALIFORNIA, TEEN EILEEN GU CHOSE TO REPRESENT TEAM CHINA INSTEAD OF THE U.S. 

YOU CAN IMAGINE HOW TWITTER RESPONDED.

BUT HER STORY ISN’T UNIQUE. EVERY OLYMPICS, DOZENS OF ATHLETES OPT TO TRADE IN THEIR STARS AND STRIPES THANKS TO RULE 41. 

LET ME EXPLAIN.  

RULE 41 IS A PART OF THE OLYMPIC CHARTER…NAVIGATING HOW AND HOW OFTEN ATHLETES CAN CHOOSE A COUNTRY TO REPRESENT.

IF YOU HAVE MULTIPLE CITIZENSHIPS, IT’S DEALER’S CHOICE.

THAT’S WHEN ATHLETES MAY WEIGH THEIR ODDS ON WHERE THEY’RE MORE LIKELY TO MAKE THE NATIONAL TEAM OR GET SPONSORSHIP DEALS.

SIDEBAR- NOT ALL COUNTRIES RECOGNIZE DUAL-CITIZENSHIPS, BUT THE US DOES. 

WHICH CAN LEAD SOME ATHLETES TO SEEK OUT ADDITIONAL OPTIONS, DESPITE STILL LIVING AND TRAINING IN THE US.

ANOTHER SIDEBAR- SOME COUNTRIES ACTUALLY SEEK OUT ATHLETES WITH 

THE PROMISE OF CITIZENSHIP. 

CHINA’S ACCUSED OF RECRUITING THEIR HOCKEY TEAMS…MADE UP OF MOSTLY OVERSEAS PLAYERS. 

WHEN AN ATHLETE CHANGES COUNTRY REPRESENTATION, IT’S CALLED A ‘TRANSFER OF ALLEGIANCE’. FITTING, RIGHT?

BUT BACK TO THE CHARTER. IT’S NOT A TOTAL FREE FOR ALL. COUNTRY CHANGES HAVE TO BE APPROVED BY THE INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE AND COME WITH A 3 YEAR WAITing PERIOD UNLESS THE COMMITTEE VOTES TO REDUCE THE TIME.

MEANING ATHLETES LIKE BUBBA NEWBY CAN’T COMPETE FOR IRELAND DURING THE OLYMPICS, THEN COMPETE FOR AMERICA A FEW MONTHS LATER.

IN THE SPIRIT OF THE OLYMPICS, RULE 41 CREATES MORE INCLUSION…ESPECIALLY IN WINTER SPORTS. 

WITHOUT IT, SNOW-LESS COUNTRIES WOULD NEVER BE REPRESENTED.

CHECK OUT THIS WOMEN’S BOBSLED TEAM. THE AMERICAN-BORN ATHLETES HELPED NIGERIA QUALIFY FOR THEIR FIRST EVER WINTER GAMES IN 2018 AND EVEN SELF-FUNDED IT.

HARD TO GET MAD AT THAT.

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF ALL THE OLYMPIC COUNTRY-SWAPPING? UN-AMERICAN OR UNDERSTANDABLE?

LET ME KNOW YOUR THOUGHTS IN THE COMMENTS BELOW AND BE SURE TO RATE THIS STORY ON THE STRAIGHT ARROW BIAS METER.

Every Olympics, dozens of athletes represent countries in which they don’t live or train. They’re able to do this because of Rule 41 in the Olympic Charter. The rule creates guidelines for which nations an athlete can represent and how often athletes can change national representation. Some call this practice ‘country-swapping’ or ‘nation-swapping’, but the official term is a ‘transfer of allegiance’.

Athletes with multiple citizenships can choose who they represent in international competition. The United States often sees the most transfers because, unlike many other nations, America recognizes dual citizenship.

Some countries actually seek out athletes with the promise of citizenship. Some athletes choose country representation based on where they’re more likely to make the national team or secure sponsorship deals.

During the Winter Games, many countries are at a disadvantage due to a lack of snow. Some athletes use Rule 41 as a way to make the Olympics to support those countries that wouldn’t otherwise be represented.

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