Can There Be a “Global Solution” to Strategic Olympic Nationality?

Can There Be a “Global Solution” to Strategic Olympic Nationality?

With opening ceremonies about to get underway  in London, there’s a discussion on Olympic nationality over at the NY Times Room for Debate with contributions from myself, Ayelet Shachar, Ian Ayres, and Jean-Loup Chappelet. Ayres and I agree that the current regime is unfair to both spectators and athletes by excluding would-be top competitors. Ayres would allow countries to grant citizenship and Olympic eligibility as they see fit; I would get rid of the eligibility rule altogether.

Shachar and Chappelet, on the other hand, see abuse in the current regime. No doubt there are “strange nationalities.” In some cases, individuals have exploited an anomalous basis for citizenship in countries to which they have little or no affective (or effective) attachment – often on the basis of a parent or grandparent’s nationality. In others, countries have in effect bought competitors, with a grant of citizenship as a necessary part of the bargain.

I don’t see this is as a problem, except to the extent that it depends on luck of the draw (either you have that grandparent or you don’t). But even if it were, I don’t know how you police against it. Chappelet calls for a “global solution”, Shachar for a “coordinated international response”.

But what would the solution look like? The current regime already imposes a three-year “cooling off” period in cases of nationality transfer, except where the country of origin agrees to a waiver (often in the wake of an NOC-NOC payment). You couldn’t reasonably make that any longer.  I suppose you could attach a residency requirement as well, to police against the grandchild phenomenon. Who’s to say that national eligibility on that basis is illegitimate? In some cases the affective attachment will be meaningful, as anyone with a close relationship to a grandparent will understand.

So there’s no way to shore up the system, which only gets leakier as states adopt more relaxed citizenship practices.

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