What Will the Medal Count Be for “None of the Above”: Olympics Allows Non-National Competitors

by Peter Spiro

The International Olympic Committee will allow marathoner Guor Marial to compete as a man without a country. From the IOC’s executive board summary of its decision in the case:

Passport-less athlete approved to compete
The EB also approved a request to allow marathon runner Guor Marial to compete in the London 2012 Games as an Independent Olympic Athlete (IOA) under the Olympic flag. Marial was born in what is now South Sudan, which does not currently have a recognised National Olympic Committee. The athlete, who does not hold a passport from any country, is a permanent resident (refugee status green card) of the United States but not a citizen. As such, he is unable to compete for the United States, South Sudan or Sudan. Marial qualified for the Games with an A Standard time on 2 October 2011.

More background here.

This is not a first time for “Independent Olympians” – more than 50 competed in Barcelona in 1992, most apparently from the former Yugoslavia in the absence of successor National Olympic Committees there, and others have haled from Kuwait, East Timor, and the Netherlands Antilles. I suppose the Marial case fits comfortably in those precedents, though a quick search of the Olympic Charter itself doesn’t cough up an obvious formal basis for the category.

If nothing else, Marial proves the obvious point that for non-team competitions, national affiliation is not an inherently necessary organizing principle.


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