The Olympics are advertised as the closest thing to a real It’s a Small World this side of the Miss Universe pageant, with athletes from all countries coming together in the spirit of harmony and friendly competition. As the athletes parade in national costumes through the stadium for the Games’ Opening Ceremony, who would suspect that many of the athletes only recently became citizens of their teams’ countries or recently ever even set foot in them.
In 2016, American runners like Alexi Pappas and Ariana Hilborn have stated their intentions to compete, not for the United States, the country where they were born and still reside, but for the countries of their ancestors, Greece and Latvia respectively. Neither has yet run an Olympic qualifying time as a member of her respective country’s team, but each has the intentions and the ability to do so within the next month or two.
While Alexi and Ariana sought dual citizenship for a chance to be Olympians that neither would likely otherwise have, some countries, like Qatar or Bahrain, have been accused of buying their Olympic teams, particularly their runners from East Africa.