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)
Winter Games
Independent Olympic Participants (2014)

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

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]

At the 1980 Summer Olympics, in partial support of the American led boycott, 14 NOCs (mostly from Western Europe) competed under the Olympic flag, while three, New Zealand, Spain and Portugal competed under the flags of their own individual NOCs.

1992 Winter and Summer Olympics

Independent Olympic Participants

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[6] 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

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

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

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.[7]

2014 Winter Olympics

The Indian Olympic Association was suspended from the IOC in December 2012, due to problems with its electoral process.[8] New elections were scheduled for 9 February 2014, two days after the start of the 2014 Winter Olympics.[9] Therefore, the three Indian athletes who qualified for the Games were scheduled to compete as Independent Olympic Participants.[8]

On 8 and 9 February, Shiva Keshavan participated in the Luge at the 2014 Winter Olympics – Men's singles 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.[10][11]

2016 Summer Olympics

On 26 October 2015, IOC president, Thomas Bach, announced before the United Nations General Assembly that refugees will be allowed to compete under the Olympic Flag at the 2016 Summer Olympics. Prior to this change, which came amid the European migrant crisis, refugees' inability to represent their NOCs made them ineligible to compete.[12] The appearance of the team, to be known as 'Team Refugee Olympic Athletes' or 'Team ROA', was confirmed in March 2016. Between 5 to 10 athletes are expected to compete, and they will be named by the IOC Executive Board in June 2016.[13]


  1. 1.0 1.1 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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Espy, Richard (1981). The Politics of the Olympic Games: With and Epilogue, 1976–1980. University of California Press. pp. 168–9. ISBN 9780520043954. Retrieved 16 June 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Guyana: Olympic tradition". NBC Olympics. NBC. Archived from the original on 25 April 2012. Retrieved 17 October 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Anderson, Dave (26 July 1976). "James Wilkes [sic] deserved to compete in Olympics". Lethbridge Herald. p. 12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "James Gilkes: A lost opportunity". Stabroek News. 15 August 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. The athlete's nationality is listed at the time of the competition.
  7. "Olympics-Kuwait to hoist flag at Games after row resolved". Retrieved 24 July 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. 8.0 8.1 "Indian athletes to compete under Olympic flag at Sochi Games". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 19 January 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Shiva Keshavan qualifies for Sochi Winter Olympics". The Times of India. Retrieved 19 January 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "International Olympic Committee reinstates India at Sochi after ban". CNN. 11 February 2014. Retrieved 11 February 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Refugees can compete for first time in 2016 Rio Olympics, IOC head says". 27 October 2015. Retrieved 27 October 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Team of Refugee Olympic Athletes (ROA) created by the IOC". IOC. Retrieved 3 March 2016.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links