Sub project: Olympic Games (1986-2012)

Current facets (Pre-Master)

During recent editions of the Olympic Games, naturalizations of athletes have caused a lot of media controversy. Take for instance the ‘Russian’ short track speed skater Viktor Ahn, born in Korea, who has won several medals for Russia during the Winter Games of 2014 (after already having competed and won medals for Korea earlier). Cases like these are numerous and all extensively debated in popular media. However, this phenomenon might not be as novel as some journalists (and also scholars) argue. Already during the Ancient Olympics mention was made of a talented long distance runner called Sotades, born in Crete, who was lured to become a citizen of and athlete for Ephesus after first having competed and won races for Crete. This led to great Cretan discontent, whereupon Sotades was banished from Crete. Migration within the context of the Olympics may hence be recurring phenomenon. The purpose of this PhD sub project is to study how patterns of athletic migration have evolved over time. This first part of the project therefore focusses on (historically) mapping patterns of migration in the Olympics. Next to this mere descriptive part, the project will also focus on the implications of Olympic migration, firstly in terms of country performance (do countries that have a large share of athletic migrants perform better at the Olympic Games in terms of the amount of medals they win?) and secondly in relation to national identity. The ultimate goal of this project is to understand how changing patterns of migration relate to debates about national identity. Although being one of the greatest mediatized sporting spectacles on the planet, the Olympic Games are still important sites where national identity is negotiated.