Independent Olympians at the Olympic Games

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Independent Olympians at the Olympic Games

Independent Olympians compete
under the Olympic Flag

IOC code   IOA, IOP
Olympic history
Summer Games
Independent Olympic Participants (1992)
Individual Olympic Athletes (2000)
Independent Olympic Athletes (2012)
Independent Olympic Athletes (2016)
Winter Games
Independent Olympic Participants (2014)

Athletes have competed as Independent Olympians at the Olympic Games for various reasons, including political transition, international sanctions, suspensions of National Olympic Committees and compassion. Independent athletes have come from the Republic of Macedonia, East Timor, South Sudan and Curaçao following geopolitical changes in the years before the Olympics, from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (present-day Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia) as a result of international sanctions and from India and Kuwait as a result of suspension of its National Olympic Committee. Medals were won by Independent Olympians at the 1992 and 2016 Olympics, both times in shooting.

The naming and country code conventions for these independent Olympians have not been consistent.


Prior to the 1906 Intercalated Games, entry was not restricted to teams nominated by National Olympic Committees (NOCs). Mixed-nationality teams competed in some team events. Participants in individual events are retrospectively credited to their nationality of the time.

The 1940 Winter Olympics was reassigned to Garmisch-Partenkirchen in spring 1939. In concert with Nazi German claims on Czechoslovakia, the organisers refused to recognise the Czechoslovakia NOC; however they were prepared to allow its athletes to enter under the Olympic flag.[1] In any event, the Games were cancelled because of World War II.[1]

In the Cold War, some athletes who emigrated from Communist European countries were unable to compete at the Olympics, as their original state's NOC neither wanted them on its own team nor gave them permission to transfer nationality. Some applied to compete as individuals in 1952 and 1956, but were refused.[2]

When Guyana joined the 1976 Olympic boycott, its sprinter James Gilkes asked the IOC to be allowed to compete as an individual, but was refused.[3][4][5]

The IOC first made provision for athletes to compete under the Olympic flag in time for the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. Some NOCs, mostly from Western Europe, wished to attend the Games despite their governments' supporting the American-led boycott. The NOCs hesitated to use national symbols without government approval, so the IOC relaxed this requirement: 14 NOCs competed under the Olympic flag, while three, New Zealand, Spain and Portugal, competed under their respective NOCs' flag.[6][7][8]

1992 Winter and Summer Olympics[edit]

Independent Olympic Participants[edit]

During the 1992 Summer Olympics, athletes from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Republic of Macedonia competed as Independent Olympic Participants. Macedonian athletes could not appear under their own flag because their National Olympic Committee (NOC) had not been formed. The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) was under United Nations sanctions which prevented the country from taking part in the Olympics. However, individual Yugoslav athletes were allowed to take part as Independent Olympic Participants. 58 athletes competed as Independent Olympic Participants, winning three medals. In addition, 16 athletes competed as Independent Paralympic Participants at the 1992 Summer Paralympics winning eight medals.

Medal Name Nationality[n 1] Games Sport Events
 Silver SekaricJasna Šekarić  Yugoslavia Spain 1992 Barcelona Shooting Women's 10 m air pistol
 Bronze Binder, ArankaAranka Binder  Yugoslavia Spain 1992 Barcelona Shooting Women's 10 m air rifle
 Bronze PletikosicStevan Pletikosić  Yugoslavia Spain 1992 Barcelona Shooting Men's 50 m rifle prone

Unified Team[edit]

The former Soviet Union competed under the Olympic flag at the 1992 Winter Olympics and 1992 Summer Olympics as a Unified Team.

2000 Summer Olympics[edit]

At the 2000 Summer Olympics, four athletes from East Timor competed as Individual Olympic Athletes during the country's transition to independence. Two athletes competed as Individual Paralympic Athletes at the 2000 Summer Paralympics.

2012 Summer Olympics[edit]

Four athletes competed as Independent Olympic Athletes at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

After the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles and subsequent withdrawal of the country's National Olympic Committee, three athletes from the country who qualified for the Games were allowed to compete independently. Several others competed for either Aruba or the Netherlands.

The National Olympic Committee for South Sudan was not established between the formation of that state and the 2012 Olympic qualifying. One athlete from South Sudan, Guor Marial, qualified for the Games, and was allowed to compete as an independent.

Athletes from Kuwait were originally allowed to compete as Independent Olympic Athletes as well, because their National Olympic Committee (NOC) was suspended. However, the NOC was reinstated allowing the athletes to compete under their own flag. Kuwait competed under the Olympic flag at the 2010 Summer Youth Olympics and 2010 Asian Games.[9]

2014 Winter Olympics[edit]

The Indian Olympic Association was suspended from the IOC in December 2012, due to problems with its electoral process.[10] New elections were scheduled for 9 February 2014, two days after the start of the 2014 Winter Olympics.[11] Therefore, the three Indian athletes who qualified for the Games were scheduled to compete as Independent Olympic Participants.[10]

On 8 and 9 February, Shiva Keshavan participated in the luge competition and received 38th place. He would end up being the only athlete to officially participate as an Independent Olympic Participant.

On 11 February 2014 the IOC reinstated the Indian Olympic Association after Narayana Ramachandran, the president of the World Squash Federation, was voted in as the new president of the Indian Olympic Association, allowing the two remaining athletes to compete under the Indian flag rather than as independent athletes. This was the first time such a reinstatement of an NOC occurred as an Olympic Games were underway.[12][13]

2016 Summer Olympics[edit]

Kuwaiti athletes will compete as independent, as the Kuwait Olympic Committee has been suspended by the International Olympic Committee due to governmental interference.[14][15][16] This was the second suspension in five years; the first suspension resulted in Kuwaiti athletes being forced to compete under the Olympic flag as Athletes from Kuwait for the 2010 Asian Games. Fehaid Al-Deehani became the first Independent Olympic Athlete to win a gold medal. Like with gold medalists of the Unified Team at the 1992 Winter and Summer Olympics, the Olympic Hymn was played in the victory ceremony.

Refugees will be allowed to compete under the Olympic Flag at the 2016 Summer Olympics, under the label Refugee Olympic Team. Ten athletes from four countries were announced to compete for this team.[17]

Due to alleged widespread state-controlled doping in Russia, the International Association of Athletic Federations suspended the All-Russia Athletic Federation in November 2015. As a result, no Russian athlete would be able to compete internationally, including the 2016 Olympics, until the suspension was lifted. The IAAF announced a path for athletes who train outside the Russia system and could prove themselves to be clean, as well as those who have helped in the fight against doping, to be eligible to compete as neutral athletes at the 2016 Olympics.[18] Two athletes, Darya Klishina and Yuliya Stepanova were initially cleared for competition, as Independent Athletes.[19]

Although Yulia Stepanova was cleared by IAAF because of her revelations regarding Russia's systemic doping program, and IOC's recognition of her 'contribution to the protection and promotion of clean athletes,' she was banned by the IOC in line with decision to ban all Russian athletes with previous doping convictions.[20] IOC also rejected the suggestion that 'neutral' athletes could compete outside of national selection.[21] Klishina was subsequently confirmed as competing under Russian colors, their only competitor in athletics at the 2016 Olympics. [22]

Medal Name Nationality[n 1] Games Sport Events
 Gold Al-Deehani, FehaidFehaid Al-Deehani Kuwait Brazil 2016 Rio de Janeiro Shooting Men's double trap
 Bronze Al-Rashidi, AbdullahAbdullah Al-Rashidi Kuwait Brazil 2016 Rio de Janeiro Shooting Men's skeet


  1. ^ a b The athlete's nationality is listed at the time of the competition.




  1. ^ a b Scharenberg, Swantje (2004). "1940 Olympic Winter Games (Never Held)". In John E. Findling, Kimberly D. Pelle. Encyclopedia of the Modern Olympic Movement. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 310. ISBN 9780313322785. Retrieved 16 June 2013. 
  2. ^ Espy 1981, pp.168–9
  3. ^ "Guyana: Olympic tradition.". NBC Olympics. NBC. Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 17 October 2012. 
  4. ^ Anderson, Dave (26 July 1976). "James Wilkes [sic] deserved to compete in Olympics". Lethbridge Herald. p. 12. 
  5. ^ "James Gilkes: A lost opportunity". Stabroek News. 15 August 2008. 
  6. ^ Espy 1981, p.196
  7. ^ "Around the National Olympic Committees: Declaration by 18 European NOCs" (PDF). Olympic Review. Lausanne: International Olympic Committee (151): 273. May 1980. Retrieved 19 August 2016. 
  8. ^ Barker, Philip (July 2010). "The Hidden Legacies of Moscow '80: Changes in Ceremonial and Attitudes" (PDF). Journal of Olympic History. ISOH. 18 (2): 32–37. 
  9. ^ "Olympics-Kuwait to hoist flag at Games after row resolved". Retrieved 24 July 2012. 
  10. ^ a b "Indian athletes to compete under Olympic flag at Sochi Games". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 19 January 2014. 
  11. ^ "Shiva Keshavan qualifies for Sochi Winter Olympics". The Times of India. Retrieved 19 January 2014. 
  12. ^ "International Olympic Committee reinstates India at Sochi after ban". CNN. 11 February 2014. Retrieved 11 February 2014. 
  13. ^ "IOC Executive Board lifts suspension of NOC of India". 21 July 2016. Retrieved 10 August 2016. 
  14. ^ "IOC suspends Kuwait's national Olympic committee". USA Today. 27 October 2015. Retrieved 4 November 2015. 
  15. ^ "Suspension of the Kuwait Olympic Committee". Olympics. 27 October 2015. Retrieved 4 November 2015. 
  16. ^ "Independent Olympic Athletes". Retrieved 3 August 2016. 
  17. ^ "Team of Refugee Olympic Athletes (ROA) created by the IOC". IOC. Retrieved 3 March 2016. 
  18. ^ "Russians, Kenyans to face evaluation for Rio Games spots, IOC chief Thomas Bach says". ABC News. 21 June 2016. Retrieved 22 July 2016. 
  19. ^ Yeung, Peter (10 July 2016). "Rio 2016: Every Russian athlete except Darya Klishina and Yuliya Stepanova rejected from competing at Olympics". The Independent. Retrieved 22 July 2016. 
  20. ^ "Decision of the IOC Executive Board concerning the participation of Russian athletes in the Olympic Games Rio 2016". IOC. 24 July 2016. Retrieved 24 July 2016. 
  21. ^ "Background Information to the decision of the IOC Executive Board concerning the participation of Russian athletes in the Olympic Games Rio 2016". 2016-07-24. Archived from the original on 2016-07-25. Retrieved 2016-07-27. 
  22. ^ Gleeson, Matthew. "Russian Darya Klishina training where Australians train ahead of 2016 Rio Olympics". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 1 August 2016. 

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