What Song Is Played If an Independent Olympian Medals?
In past years, Olympic athletes who are unable to represent their countries due to international sanctions or political transition compete as “Independent Olympians.” There are nine of them this year, competing in fencing, shooting, and swimming. They’re all from Kuwait, which had its Olympic Committee suspended due to government interference.
There’s also an Olympic first this year—the Refugee Olympic Team. The team comprises 10 refugee athletes originally from Syria, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Ethiopia.
Historically, athletes not competing for specific countries haven’t done so well—but in 1992, their chances were better than usual due to sheer numbers. The number of Independent Olympians is usually 10 or fewer, but due to the separation of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, 58 competitors were considered “Independent” at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. Three of them won medals in shooting—one silver and two bronze. (The 2012 delegation should have medalled just for their enthusiasm during the Parade of Nations.)
So far, the Barcelona event is the only Olympic Games in which an Independent athlete has medalled. Should an Independent athlete or member of the Refugee team medal this year, here’s what will happen when he or she hits the winner’s stand: The medal count will be added to the Independent Olympians or Refugee Olympic Team, not to a specific country. The athlete will stand under the Olympic flag instead of a country flag. Similarly, the song that plays won’t be the official anthem of any country, but will instead be the official Olympic Anthem.
It has been 24 years since we last saw a person not representing a country on the podium, but hey, it’s the Olympics—anything can happen.